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Copyright © 1999, by the Middle East Data Project, Inc. All rights reserved.

Issue No. 63, Oct. 4, 1999

U.S. Talks to Iran (Serial 6301 - Excerpts)


For the first time since the Iran-contra affair in 1986, a senior U.S. official has held talks with an "authorized representative" of the government of Iran, informed sources in Washington told The Iran Brief.

The meetings, which took place in late July and August in Rome and Geneva, were held between the head of the U.S. National Security Council's Middle East office, Bruce Reidel, and an unknown emissary from Tehran. Sources in Tehran told The Iran Brief the Iranians did not send a government official, for fear of arousing the ire of hard-liners in Tehran, but had officially designated someone not connected directly to the government to represent their positions and relay messages to and from the U.S.

An Iranian journalist known for his close ties to President Khatami, Ali Nourizadeh, first broke the story in the Kuwaiti daily Al Watan on Sept. 10. Nourizadeh said that talks were held in Rome "between one of Khatami's advisors and a representative of the U.S. National Security Council" early this summer. The advisor, described as an "Iranian diplomat," returned to Tehran and was then dispatched to Geneva, where he held three more meetings over five days in August with an unnamed envoy of the U.S. President.

Reidel was officially on vacation in August when the Geneva meetings were held, a National Security Council spokesman in Washington told The Iran Brief.

The Al Watan report also claimed that President Clinton had sent a strongly-worded, but friendly letter to Khatami, detailing U.S. knowledge of Iran's involvement in the Dhahran bombing in June 1996 and asking Iran's help in locating and extraditing several Saudi nationals......

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