The New York Times reported Saturday that the United States has agreed to bilateral talks with Iran over its highly contested nuclear program.
The story read, in part:
News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.
It has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time. [Emphasis added]
However, the White House denied the report Saturday evening.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor released a statement:
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...
Despite harsh global sanctions, Iran's nuclear program has continued steadily advancing. Western nations fear the Islamic republic is determined to develop nuclear weapons and fundamentally reshape the balance of power in the Middle East and the world, posing a grave threat to Israel and the West. Iran, however, maintains that its program is for peaceful energy and research purposes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.