Netanyahu: Israel Unaware of Any Breakthrough in U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks

PM says Israel knows nothing of New York Times report on negotiations, but stresses that Iran using talks to advance its nuclear program; White House and Iran both deny the report.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Sunday to the New York Times report on direct talks between the U.S. and Iran, saying Israel is unaware of any such breakthrough.

Netanyahu, speaking at the Home Front Command drill in Holon, said the Israeli government does not have any information regarding U.S.-Iran nuclear talks.

"Iran is using negotiations and talks in order to gain time and advance its nuclear program," Netanyahu said. "I have no reason to believe that in talks with the U.S. Iran would behave differently."

"The diplomatic way to halt the nuclear program is a combination of harsh sanctions and a military option," he said. "As long as I am the prime minister of Israel I would not allow Iran to reach military nuclear capability."

A senior source in the Prime Minister's Office also said that Israel does not know of any renewal of talks with Iran.

"Iran must halt all uranium enrichment, remove the enriched uranium in its possession from the country, and to dismantle the underground facility near Qom," said the senior official. "The only way this will happen is stepping up sanctions on Iran in addition to a credible military threat against Iran."

On Saturday night, the New York Times reported that the United States and Iran agreed for the first time to launch one-on-one negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

This could mark a final diplomatic effort to avert military action against Iran, the U.S. newspaper noted.

Iran wants to start the talks only after the United States chooses its next president in early November, a senior Obama official reportedly told the paper. This is because Tehran wants to know who it will be negotiating with, the official said.

The White House, however, was quick to deny the report. In a statement, National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said it was "not true" that the two sides had agreed to direct talks.

"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 P-5 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally," the statement said.

According to the New York Times report, the agreement was reached following intense, secret negotiations that started shortly after Barack Obama entered the White House four years ago.

Iran also denied the report on Sunday, with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi saying: "We don't have any discussions or negotiations with America."
"The [nuclear] talks are ongoing with the P5+1 group of nations. Other than that, we have no discussions with the United States," he added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz.Credit: AP

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