Washington: The White House has denied a New York Times report that the United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.
“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” White House National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement Saturday.
“The President has made clear that he will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and we will do what we must to achieve that. It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations,” he said.
“The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure.”
Citing unnamed Obama administration officials, the Times had reported earlier Saturday that Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election so that they know which American president they would be dealing with.
Secret discussions between US and Iranian officials date almost to the start of Obama’s term, the newspaper said.
News of the agreement comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before Monday’s final presidential debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy, the Times said
It has the potential to help Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time, the influential daily said.
It is also far from clear that Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election, it said noting Romney has repeatedly criticised the president as showing weakness on Iran and failing to stand firmly with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat.