White House Denies Reported U.S., Iran Talks on Nuclear Program

According to a New York Times report, talks were due to begin after the U.S. elections in November; White House says report is 'not true,' but says willing to meet with Iran.

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The White House denied on Saturday a New York Times report claiming that the U.S. and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks over Iran's nuclear program.

In a statement, National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said it was "not true" that the two sides had agreed to direct talks, but said that the Obama administration would be prepared to meet with Iran one-on-one on the nuclear issue.

"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+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally," the statement said.

The P5+1 group is composed of the permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia - plus Germany.

The group has held a series of inconclusive meetings with Iranian officials in the past year. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tehran's proposals to date had been "non-starters."

According to the newspaper, Tehran and Washington agreed for the first time to launch one-on-one negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, something that could mark a final diplomatic effort to avert military action against Iran.

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

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

Vietor's statement added: "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."

Heavy-water production plant in the central Iranian town of Arak, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006.Credit: AP

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