Iran, U.S. Deny Plans for Bilateral Talks

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 21 2012 10:43 AM

Tehran and Washington Deny Plans for One-on-One Talks Over Iran's Nuclear Program

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Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi denied Tehran had reached an agreement to hold talks with Washington

Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP/GettyImages

Iran and the United States both denied the two countries reached an agreement to hold direct, one-on-one talks after the U.S. presidential election. The New York Times reported Saturday that the United States and Iran had “agreed in principle” to hold the first direct talks over Iran’s nuclear program, reporting that Tehran insisted a sit-down would have to wait until after the election.

The White House quickly said that while it is willing to hold direct negotiations with Tehran there has been no deal to hold the one-on-one talks after the election, reports the Associated Press. "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 said. On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi backed the White House, assuring journalists during a news conference that “we don’t have any discussions or negotiations with America.” He noted that talks with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, the so-called P5+1, continue, reports Reuters.

Coming in the final weeks of the campaign, and right as the presidential contenders get ready for a debate that will focus on foreign policy, the news could help President Obama portray his administration as close to a breakthrough on curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. At the same time, it could help Romney portray the White House as being all too willing to let Iran buy time with the prospect of future talks. Even if Obama is reelected there is no guarantee the talks would actually go through, notes the Times, pointing out that “Iran has a history of using the promise of diplomacy to ease international pressure on it.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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