Door opens a sliver on US-Iran nuke talks

Door opens a sliver on US-Iran nuke talks

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Door opens a sliver on US-Iran nuke talks

In this file photo Iranian President Ahmadinejad (R) is escorted by technicians during a tour of Tehran’s research reactor center in Tehran. Iran has denied a report that it had plans for direct talks with the US over its nuclear program. AP photo

The White House has said it is prepared to talk one on one with Iran to find a diplomatic settlement to the impasse over Tehran’s reported pursuit of nuclear weapons, but no meeting has yet been set.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Oct. 20 that President Barack Obama has made clear that he would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and would do whatever was necessary to block that from happening. Vietor said Iran must either adhere to its obligations or face increased pressure.

“The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure,” Vietor said in a statement, adding that efforts to bring Iran back to the table with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany – the so-called “P5+1” – were continuing. Iran has been a recurring issue in the presidential election campaign and Vietor’s statement was released shortly after the New York Times reported that the U.S. and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to negotiations.

The agreement was the result of secret talks between the two sides, the report said, adding that Iran had insisted that the negotiations not begin until after the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6. Vietor, however, denied that any such agreement had been reached.

Third debate today

“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” he said. “We continue to work with the P5+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”

Iran similarly denied the report. “We don’t have any discussions or negotiations with America,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said yesterday. “The (nuclear) talks are ongoing with the P5+1 group of nations. Other than that, we have no discussions with the United States.” The report came on the eve of the last presidential debate between Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which will focus on foreign policy, meaning Iran’s nuclear ambitions will likely be a topic.

Obama and Romney both took a break from the campaign trail this weekend to prepare for today’s debate.

The 90-minute debate in Boca Raton, Florida, focusing on foreign policy comes just 15 days before the Nov. 6 election. Its moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, has listed five subject areas, with more time devoted to the Middle East and terrorism than any other topic.

While the economy has been the dominant theme of the election, foreign policy has attracted renewed media attention in the aftermath of last month’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans. The Syrian conflict and relations with Russia and China will also be discussed.