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Report says Obama sought ties with Iran

Oct. 28, 2012 at 7:34 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Months after taking office in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama proposed to gradually normalize ties with Iran, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Sunday.

The Hebrew language newspaper said its report was based on information from two western diplomats described as being "very close" to the Obama administration. The diplomats' names were not revealed.

The United States proposed to open interest sections in Tehran and Washington, considered to be the lowest diplomatic level of affairs between the two countries, with the option of expanding to full diplomatic ties and embassies in both capitals, Maariv said. Other incentives reportedly included enhancing security ties, direct flights between the two countries and granting visas to Iranian tourists.

Iran rejected all of the proposals reportedly out of fear the regime would be threatened by America's involvement in Iranian society, the newspaper said.

Maariv noted shortly after Obama took office in 2009, the White House released a statement saying he supported "firm and direct diplomacy with Iran, without pre-conditions." Obama's administration maintained at the time that enhancing ties with Iran would assist in reaching understandings and agreements to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program, the paper said.

The report came days after Washington and Tehran denied talks between American and Iranian officials concerning the Islamic Republic's nuclear program had taken place in the past, the Hebrew daily said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in October 2009 in Geneva and at least one more meeting took place at a later date, Maariv said.

The White House also denied a New York Times report of secret talks with Iran with the aim of one-on-one negotiations concerning Tehran's nuclear program.

Two unnamed senior Israeli officials told Maariv the U.S. administration believes Iran may be interested in renewing direct talks after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election.

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