WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- There is no agreement between the United States and Iran to hold one-on-one talks on Tehran's nuclear program, an Obama administration official said Saturday.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor issued the denial after The New York Times reported administration officials in Washington said the first-ever direct negotiations between the two countries were agreed to following what it called intense, secret exchanges.
"It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections," Vietor said in a statement. "We continue to work with the P-5+1 [the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany] on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally."
The Times said word of the agreement to talk directly has circulated among a limited number of diplomats who deal with Iran. The newspaper said it's possible the talks could fail to materialize even if Obama is re-elected Nov. 6.
The Times said the American officials, who it did not name, said they were unsure whether Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved the negotiations. The Times said an administration official said the agreement to talk was reached with senior Iranian officials who report to Iran's supreme leader.
One official said some within the U.S. administration want to focus the talks on Iran's nuclear program, while Iran has indicated it wants to get into regional issues such as Syria.
"We've always seen the nuclear issue as independent," the administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We're not going to allow them to draw a linkage."
Vietor reiterated President Obama's policy that the United States will whatever is necessary to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear military capacity.
"It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations," Vietor said. "The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure."