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Reports Emerge On High-Level U.S.-Iran Talks

January 30, 2009

“The Washington Times” writes on January 30 about a meeting that apparently took place last year between former U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry and a senior adviser to Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The report, based on information from “a person familiar with the back-channel talks,” states that “the person, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said the talks took place with Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, Mr. Ahmadinejad's closest aide, and were 'discussions, not negotiations,' aimed at clarifying understanding of the two sides' positions."

The "Washington Times" article continues: "Former U.S. officials have had numerous conversations with Iranians over the years, but few, if any, with officials as influential as Samareh.

"It was not clear whether Mr. Perry, a veteran statesman who also served as a Clinton administration troubleshooter on the North Korean nuclear program, was acting at the behest of the Bush administration or others. The Bush White House rejected several overtures for back-channel talks with Iranian officials in 2005 and 2006.”

An Iranian website, Ayandenews, also reports that Perry met with some “Iranian political officials" last year, following Barack Obama’s election victory.

The website reports that the meeting took place in “suitable” conditions and the two sides reached some kind of agreement.

Perry and Iranian officials have yet to comment on the reports.

Ayandehnews reports that Vice President Rahim Mashaei's trip to the United States was the most important visit by an Iranian official to the United States since Obama’s election.

Some other Iranians news sites had reported that Mashaei had traveled to the United States in November to meet with then-President-elect Obama to talk about the normalization of ties. But he reportedly received a cold welcome, and made little progress.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/Reports_Emerge_On_HighLevel_USIran_Talks/1377089.html

Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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