The White House is denying a New York Times report that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks for the first time on Iran’s nuclear program.
A White House spokesman said late Saturday that the United States will continue to work with its fellow members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany on a diplomatic solution. The spokesman said President Barack Obama has made it clear that he will do what he must to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
The newspaper, citing unnamed Obama administration officials, says the U.S. and Iran have been holding intense secret exchanges almost since Barack Obama became president in 2009.
The officials say Iran wants to wait until after the November U.S. presidential election to see with whom it would be negotiating, a second Obama administration or one under the Republican Mitt Romney, who has accused Obama of being too soft on Iran.
The Times says U.S. officials want to restrict the talks to Iran’s nuclear program and will not allow Iran to link the talks to any other issues, including Syria.
The United States has long suspected Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful civilian purposes.
Israel has threatened military action against Iran. Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, tells the Times that Israel believes Iran should not be rewarded with talks but that sanctions should be strengthened.
International sanctions and a European Union oil boycott have so far failed to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program.