The White House hasn’t agreed to direct one-on-one talks with Iran’s government over its nuclear program, even as it remains open to such negotiations, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Responding to a New York Times report, Vietor also said there was no deal to meet with Iranian officials after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election. Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi today also said there are no plans for 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 election,” Vietor said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”
He repeated that the U.S. remains prepared to meet bilaterally with Iran. The New York Times, citing unnamed administration officials, said the two sides agreed “in principle” to direct negotiations for the first time.
Iran has been a flashpoint in U.S. foreign policy and in the U.S. presidential election race between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Romney has criticized Obama’s approach to dealing with Iran, which the U.S. suspects is developing nuclear weapons capability. Romney has called for a tougher line on Iran, including the imposition of stiffer sanctions than the president has set and the restoration of permanently stationed aircraft-carrier task forces in the region.
Obama and Romney will meet for their third and final debate on foreign policy tomorrow night in Boca Raton, Florida.
The Times reported that the Iranian government has insisted that any talks take place after the election so they know who they’d be negotiating with.
Since April, the Obama administration and France, the U.K., Germany, China and Russia -- a group known as the P-5 +1 -- have pursued three rounds of diplomacy in an effort to persuade Iran to abandon illicit aspects of its nuclear program. The P5+1 group is the channel for talks and negotiations are continuing, Salehi told reporters in Tehran today.
While the international community has stepped up the pressure on Iran by imposing dozens of financial and oil sanctions this year, the talks have so far failed to achieve a settlement.
The Obama administration has said the sanctions have been biting into Iran’s economy.
Oil output in Iran, previously the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, has sagged to 2.63 million barrels a day in September from 2.85 million barrels in August, the International Energy Agency said in a report on Oct. 12.
The country’s crude exports decreased to 860,000 barrels a day in September, from 1.1 million a day in August and 2 million barrels a day in early 2012, data from the Paris-based agency showed.
Iran’s rial has lost more than half of its value against the dollar in street trading in the past two months.
Iran has increased production of 20 percent enriched uranium and grew its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Aug. 30. Highly enriched uranium can be used to produce electricity or to manufacture nuclear weapons.