Iran denies report of direct nuclear talks with U.S.


(JTA) — Iran denied a New York Times report that it has agreed to direct talks with the United States over its nuclear program.

Iran issued the denial on Sunday, a day after the U.S. National Security Council also denied the report in The New York Times.

The newspaper cited unnamed senior Obama administration officials as saying that the United States and Iran have agreed in principle to one-on-one negotiations that reportedly would not take place until after the presidential election in November.  

Iran this year has been negotiating with the P5+1, comprised of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — as well as Germany. The talks have not led to any agreements.

The New York Times reported that the agreement was reached after secret negotiations that began in the early months of Obama’s presidency in 2009.

"Israel doesn’t know about these contacts and I can’t confirm that they’ve actually taken place," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued Sunday night. "I can say that Iran used the talks and negotiations with the Five Powers to drag its feet and to gain time to advance its nuclear weapons program.  In the last year alone, in the course of these talks, Iran has enriched thousands of kilograms of uranium in its nuclear program.  And I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t continue in that same way if they open up talks with the U.S. Therefore, the international community, first of all, needs to set very clear demands to Iran: Halting uranium enrichment, removing all enriched uranium and dismantling the underground installation in Qom. I think that the best chance to succeed in halting Iran’s nuclear program diplomatically is a combination of very sharp sanctions and a credible military option. In any event, I can say that as long as I am the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel will not allow Iran to reach a military nuclear capability."

Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, told the New York Times that the Obama administration had not informed his country about the diplomatic initiative.

"We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks," Oren told the newspaper. "Rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased."

Israel has called for the United States and other countries to take military action against Iran before it achieves a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. 

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