Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that Iran is taking advantage of the upcoming U.S. presidential election to buy time for its nuclear program, since the country reportedly has agreed to one-on-one negotiations with the U.S. only after the election is decided.
Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, was reacting to a report by the New York Times this weekend that said the two countries have agreed to direct talks for the first time — but with a caveat by Iran that they don’t take place until after a presidential winner emerges after Nov. 6.
Mr. Graham called it a “ploy” by the Iranians, who are “using our election cycle in a pretty clever way.”
“I think the Iranians are trying to take advantage of our election cycle to continue to talk,” he told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think the time for talking is over. We should be demanding transparency and access to their nuclear program.”
But Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Iran’s willingness to sit down with the U.S. signals that Mr. Obama’s use of economic sanctions on the country is working.
“This is a clear indication that the sanctions regime President Obama’s put together with Israel and other countries is putting pressure on Iran to sit down and finally acknowledge they cannot have a nuclear weapon,” he said.
The White House has denied agreeing to such talks, while still expressing willingness to sit down with Iran if that will stem its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“If direct negotiations are a path toward a peaceful solution, it would be unconscionable for us not to meet and talk,” Mr. Durbin said.