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10/21/12

US, Iran Deny Report of One-On-One Nuclear Talks

Source: VOA

Both the United States and Iran are denying a U.S. newspaper report that they have agreed to unprecedented one-on-one talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told a news conference Sunday that his government is not involved in any such talks with Washington.

The White House on Saturday also denied The New York Times report, which quotes unidentified Obama administration officials. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that the United States will continue to work with the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany on a diplomatic solution.

The world powers have been trying to get Iran to stop nuclear activities that the United States and other countries believe are aimed at building nuclear weapons.

The New York Times report says the U.S. and Iran have been holding intense secret exchanges almost since Barack Obama became president in 2009.

The report quotes a senior U.S. official as saying that Iran wants direct talks to wait until after the U.S. presidential election in November to see with whom it would be negotiating - a second Obama administration or one under Republican Mitt Romney, who has accused Mr. Obama of being too soft on Iran.

The newspaper said U.S. officials want to restrict talks to Iran's nuclear program and would not allow Tehran to broaden the talks to any other issues, including Syria.

The United States has long suspected Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.

On Sunday, Israel's vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon said that as far as his country knows, Iran's leadership is against direct talks with Washington, and that he believes Washington's denial of the press report.

As concerns have risen about Iran's nuclear program, Israel has threatened military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. The New York Times story quoted Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, as saying that Israel believes Iran should not be rewarded with talks but that sanctions should be strengthened.

International sanctions and a European Union oil boycott have so far failed to persuade Iran to give up its disputed nuclear activities but have severely affected its economy.

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