White House denies secret talks with Iran
THE Obama administration was forced to deny secret talks with Iran yesterday after it was reported that an agreement had been reached to hold the first ever face-to-face nuclear talks with Tehran.
The White House strenuously denied the claims after the 'New York Times' reported that "intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials" had taken place almost from the beginning of Mr Obama's first term. "It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections," said Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman in a statement, but he added that the US would continue to work for a diplomatic solution.
The White House's denial came 24 hours before Mr Obama and the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, hold a crucial final televised debate tonight in Boca Raton, Florida, which will focus exclusively on foreign affairs.
Mr Romney has accused Mr Obama of being too soft on Iran and failing to set clear 'red lines' that would trigger military action against the regime's nuclear programme.
Iran claims its nuclear activities are peaceful, but Western powers say they are aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.
The White House denials were echoed in Tehran. "We don't have any discussions or negotiations with America," said Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Over the last year the so-called "P5+1" -- a group comprising the permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, Britain, China, France, and Russia -- plus Germany -- have held a series of inconclusive talks with Iran.
Although formally denied yesterday, the reports of back-channel negotiations between the US and Iran are consistent with expectations that there will be a renewed push to resolve the Iran issue after November's general election. (© Daily Telegraph, London)