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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Feb 25th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Iran offered to end attacks on British troops in Iraq, claims diplomat
Iran offered to end attacks on British troops in Iraq, claims diplomat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, guardian.co.uk, Orig Pub Date Friday 20 February 2009   
Sunday, 15 March 2009


Promise that roadside bombings would stop 'if Britain accepted nuclear programme'

British troops in Iraq: Iran is said to have offered a deal. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/PA

Iran offered to curb attacks on British troops in Iraq in exchange for British acceptance of its nuclear programme, a top British diplomat has said.

The claim is made by Sir John Sawers, now Britain's ambassador to the UN, in a BBC documentary to air tomorrow night. Iran and the West: Nuclear confrontation charts the diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium since its secret enrichment plant in Natanz was exposed in 2002.

"There were various Iranians who would come to London and suggest we had tea in some hotel or other. They'd do the same in Paris, they'd do the same in Berlin, and then we'd compare notes among the three of us," Sawers, who was political director at the foreign office at the time, told the BBC.

At the time US and British officials suspected Iran of supplying Shia militants in Iraq with sophisticated roadside bombs and other weapons which were used against coalition troops.

Sawers said: "The Iranians wanted to be able to strike a deal whereby they stopped killing our forces in Iraq in return for them being allowed to carry on with their nuclear programme: 'We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining the political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear programme without let or hindrance.' "

Britain dismissed the deal. Britain, together with the US, France, Germany, Russia and China, have offered economic incentives and support for Iran's nuclear energy plans in return for a suspension of uranium enrichment. The UN security council has also demanded suspension, and has imposed sanctions for Iran's failure to comply. Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy generation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported yesterday that Iran was continuing to expand its nuclear plant, although at a slower rate than last year, and had already amassed more than a tonne of low enriched uranium.

That is technically enough for a single nuclear weapon, but UN officials caution that Iran faces many more technical hurdles before it is capable of making a bomb.

The BBC documentary charts some of the missed diplomatic opportunities for defusing tensions between Iran and the west, particularly while Mohamed Khatami was president, from 1997 to 2005. For example, it details how much help Iran offered to the US in ousting the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

Hillary Mann, a former US state department official recalled how an Iranian military official tried to guide the US at a meeting in New York in late 2001.

"He unfurled the map on the table and started to point to targets that the US needed to focus on, particularly in the north," said Mann. "We took the map to Centcom, the US Central Command, and certainly that did become the US military strategy."

• Iran and the West: Nuclear confrontation, airs tomorrow at 9pm on BBC2.


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