US denies NY Times report of Iran nuclear talks


WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: Bob Kunst (R) protests against a nuclear Iran in front of the White House where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting on March 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss peace in the Middle East, and Israel's growing concerns with Iran producing nuclear weapons.


Mark Wilson

The White House said it was "not true" that US and Iran had agreed to one-on-one talks concerning Iran's nuclear program.

The New York Times article, titled "US officials say Iran has agreed to nuclear talks," published Saturday, said Iran and the US had agreed "in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations," citing an anonymous "Obama administration officials." 

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor responded in a statement:

"It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections."

"We continue to work with the P5+1 [UK, US, France, China, Russia and Germany] on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally. 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. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure."

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a news conference the US and Iran were not engaged in discussions outside the P5+1 group.

"We don't have any discussions or negotiations with America," Salehi said. "The (nuclear) talks are ongoing with the P5+1 group of nations. Other than that, we have no discussions with the United States."

Due to International sanctions and a European Union boycott on oil, Iran's currency, the rial, sunk 40 percent in early October.

Former under secretary of state R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Iran under George W. Bush, told the Times the possibility of a nuclear Iran “is the most difficult national security issue facing the United States. While we should preserve the use of force as a last resort, negotiating first with Iran makes sense."

Tehran claims its nuclear enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

The third and final presidential debate on Monday will focus on foreign policy. President Obama's opponent Mitt Romney accuses the White House of being to soft on Iran.