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UK: Iran offered nuclear deal to stop Iraq troop attacks: BBC

22 Feb 2009 3:59 AM

LONDON, Feb 21 AFP - Iran offered to stop attacking troops in Iraq if the West dropped opposition to its nuclear program, a top British official said in comments to be broadcast on Saturday.

Sir John Sawers, Britain's ambassador to the UN, told the BBC Iranian officials had privately admitted their role in supporting insurgents' roadside bomb attacks on British and US troops.

But the proposed deal, floated in teatime meetings at London hotels, was rejected by the British government.

It was not clear exactly when the deal was suggested, according to pre-released extracts of the interview, which will appear in a documentary later in the day.

"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 program," Sawers told the BBC.

He paraphrased the terms of the proposed deal as: "We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining the political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear program without let or hindrance."

It was proposed in a series of meetings between Iranian and European officials, he said.

"There were various Iranians who would come to London and suggest we have tea in some hotel or other," Sawers told the broadcaster.

"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."

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying in response that the country's authorities "have many times stressed that Iran has no role in attacks on American and British troops".

"The Islamic Republic of Iran from the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has played a role for the return of peace, stability and calm in these countries," he said.

"It had regular dialogues and cooperation with international forces with regard to these issues."

The revelation is one of several in the documentary about backroom talks between the West and Iran since 2001.

Quoting Iranian and American officials, the program also says Teheran cooperated closely with the United States to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks, even providing intelligence information to help with bombing raids.

Hillary Mann, a former senior official under ex-president George W Bush, told the BBC how one Iranian military official "unfurled the map on the table and started to point to targets that the US needed to focus on".

Iran's then president, Mohammad Khatami, was reportedly willing to help get rid of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying he was also Iran's enemy.

But relations reportedly soured when Bush labelled Iran part of the "axis of evil" in 2002.

The former third-highest ranking official at the US State Department, Nicholas Burns, told the documentary: "We had a very threatening posture towards Iran for a number of years. It didn't produce any movement whatsoever."