Iran and the United States have been engaged in secret "back channel" discussions for the past five years on Iran's nuclear programme [sic] and the broader relationship between the two sworn enemies, The Independent can reveal.
One of the participants, former senior US diplomat Thomas Pickering, explained that a group of former American diplomats and experts had been meeting with Iranian academics and policy advisers "in a lot of different places, although not in the US or Iran".
"Some of the Iranians were connected to official institutions inside Iran," he said in a telephone interview from Washington. The group was organised by the UN Association of the USA, a pro-UN organisation. Its work was facilitated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a government-funded think-tank chaired by the former chief UN weapons inspector for Iraq, Rolf Ekeus.
Could this be one of the reasons why Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte went to Pakistan earlier this year? As a cover story for meeting with Iranian officials? If this ends up being the case, will Negroponte become the poster boy for appeasement and face withering attacks from the neoconservatives like John Bolton:
John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, told Tory delegates today that efforts by the UK and the EU to negotiate with Iran had failed and that he saw no alternative to a pre-emptive strike on suspected nuclear facilities in the country.
Mr Bolton, who was addressing a fringe meeting organised by Lord (Michael) Ancram, said that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was "pushing out" and "is not receiving adequate push-back" from the west.
"I don't think the use of military force is an attractive option, but I would tell you I don't know what the alternative is.
"Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider the use of military force. I think we have to look at a limited strike against their nuclear facilities."
He added that any strike should be followed by an attempt to remove the "source of the problem", Mr Ahmadinejad.
Clearly, the choice has been to try to negotiate. This marks a