Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice disputed claims Wednesday that the Bush administration bungled a diplomatic overture from Iran that offered a broad dialogue with the United States after nearly a quarter-century of enmity.
Rice told Congress she does not remember seeing the 2003 Iranian proposal, which suggested Iran was ready to discuss its disputed nuclear program, support for militant groups that the United States labels terrorists and the acceptance of Israel...
The document, faxed to the State Department in the early days of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, proposed direct talks, perhaps in Paris. Iraq was at the top of the proposed agenda, with Tehran proposing "active Iranian support for Iraqi stabilization..."
Rice was asked about such criticism from a former National Security Council aide, Flynt Leverett.
"I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about, quite frankly," Rice said. "Maybe I should ask him when he came to me and said, 'We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it.'"
Leverett had left the NSC by the time the fax arrived, but he said in an interview that he knows the document was sent to the NSC. It also went to Rice's predecessor as secretary of state, Colin Powell, former officials have said.
Leverett said he has never discussed with Rice whether she saw it.
"This administration, out of some combination of ideological blindness and incompetence, couldn't be bothered to explore whether this opportunity was as serious as it looked on paper," Leverett said Wednesday...
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