Tehran: Iran on Sunday denied a report in The New York Times that it was engaged in direct bilateral talks with the US over its disputed nuclear programme.
“We are not involved in such a thing right now,” foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters when asked about the newspaper’s article.
The White House on Saturday also denied the report that cited unnamed officials in President Barack Obama’s administration as claiming the US and Iran had agreed in secret talks to one-on-one negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” national security council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.
Vietor said Washington would continue to work with global powers on a “diplomatic solution” to the nuclear stand-off. He added that the US “said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally”.
The New York Times said Iran had insisted that the negotiations not begin until after the US presidential election on 6 November.
Salehi, meanwhile, did not exclude a resumption of talks between Tehran and the P5+1 group—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—after the election.
“In the latest negotiations, it was decided that the next meeting would be held in late November. But no date or venue has been set yet,” Salehi said.
The talks with Tehran are being pursued by the West, in addition to a series of sanctions imposed by Europe, the US and the UN Security Council, with the aim of pressuring Iran to curb its programme of uranium enrichment.
But those talks have stalled for years, with the latest round collapsing in Moscow in June.
Salehi’s announcement confirms a statement by Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov who said on Thursday that new talks were possible in November between Tehran and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the P5+1 in the talks.
“It would be realistic to talk about organising one in November,” Ryabkov said while refusing to speculate where such a meeting might take place.
Western powers accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, a charge which Iran has repeatedly denied, saying its nuclear energy programme is purely for peaceful purposes. AFP