The White House late Saturday denied a New York Times report that the U.S. and Iran had agreed to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran also denied the report Sunday, Reuters reported.
"We don't have any discussions or negotiations with America," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told a news conference. "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, quoting unnamed Obama administration officials, said the Iranians had insisted that the talks wait until after the Nov. 6 presidential elections, so they would know with whom they will be dealing next year.
The administration said it was prepared to meet Iran bilaterally, but there has been no agreement so far to do so.
"It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. "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."
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the U.K., U.S., France, China, Russia and Germany -- have been stalled while the Western nations have imposed harsh sanctions on Tehran in an attempt to discourage its alleged clandestine nuclear weapons program.
"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," Vietor said. "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."
Israel, which has been advocating military action to thwart Tehran's nuclear program, said it hasn’t received any word of the breakthrough reported by the Times, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said.
“A string of top Israeli officials indicated that Israel had no knowledge of secret talks, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman telling Army Radio that he knew nothing of the matter and that Israel wasn't updated,” Haaretz reported Sunday.
The New York Times report and the Obama administration's denial come just before the last debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney, who will clash over foreign policy Monday night.
Romney has been targeting Obama’s foreign policy following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The Obama campaign has been touting the killing of Osama bin Laden as one of the administration's remarkable achievements, a point Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly has summed up as "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."
Gayathri writes about geopolitics and business for International Business Times. She began her career at the Times of India as news coordinator, before moving on to IBTimes...