The White House has denied a report of the U.S. and Iran agreeing to one-on-one nuclear talks.
On Saturday evening, the New York Times released a piece claiming that the two nations had agreed to take this step for the first time. The paper cited "intense, secret exchanges" between officials from both countries that had been developing since President Barack Obama took office -- culminating less than 48 hours before 2012's presidential debate on foreign policy.
Shortly after the Times' report went live, the White House released a statement from National Security Council Spokesperson Tommy Vietor, calling the report "not true."
It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections. 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. 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. 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.
Back in late September, both Obama and Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered speeches at the U.N. General Assembly. Obama directly addressed nuclear weapons, noting that while the U.S. prioritizes diplomacy as its top path with Iran, the time to reach an agreement "is not unlimited."
"Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained," Obama said on Sept. 25 in New York. "It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
A day later, Ahmadinejad charged that his nation was threatened by "uncivilized Zionists," appearing to point a finger at the United States.
"Are we to believe that those who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on election campaigns have the interest of the people of the world at their hearts?" he said.