The Washington Times - October 20, 2012, 05:31PM

UPDATE 1: (Via Politico ) The White House is denying the U.S. will be engaging in one on one talks with Iran:

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor offered a denial.

“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” he said in a statement.

“We continue to work with the P-5 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. It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure.”

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The New York Times is reporting the Obama administration and Iran have agreed to direct one on one talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program: 

The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know which American president they would be negotiating with.

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 a day before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.

However, The New York Times noted that Israel is critical of these direct talks and said that the Obama administration “had not informed” the Israeli government of the negotiations with Iran:

Israeli officials initially expressed an awareness of, and openness to, a diplomatic initiative. But when asked for a response on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael B. Oren, said the administration had not informed Israel, and that the Israeli government feared Iran would use new talks to “advance their nuclear weapons program.”

“We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks,” he said, “rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased.”Direct talks would also have implications for an existing series of negotiations involving a coalition of major powers, including the United States. These countries have imposed sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes but which Israel and many in the West believe is aimed at producing a weapon.

On September 12, President Barack Obama was criticized for not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the threat of a nuclear Iran. According to CNN: 

President Barack Obama talked with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call Tuesday night about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, according to a White House statement.

Obama placed the call to Netanyahu, a senior administration official told CNN.

The one-paragraph statement from the White House, which referred to the Obama-Netanyahu discussion as “a part of their ongoing consultations,” followed reports earlier in the day that the White House had rejected a request by Netanyahu to meet with Obama this month to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, citing Israeli sources, reported that the Israelis were told Obama’s schedule would not permit a meeting even though Israel offered to have Netanyahu travel to Washington. 

Red line for action in Iran U.S.-Israel heated exchange over Iran? Can music ‘heal’ Israel-Iran relations?Obama and Netanyahu are both due to address the United Nations in New York in late September but not at the same time.

The Obama administration pushed back later Tuesday.

“Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied,” the White House said Tuesday night in its statement, which made reference to “our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues.

“Netanyahu has shown growing impatience with what he says is a lack of clarity by the Obama administration on articulating so-called “red lines” that Iran cannot cross if it wants to avoid war over its nuclear ambitions.

The administration has resisted pressure to take that step.

Vice President Joe Biden went after Vice Presidential Republican nominee Congressman Paul Ryan at the vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky when Rep. Ryan criticized the administration for freezing out Netanyahu. 

“They see us saying when we come into the administration, when they’re sworn in, we need more space with our ally, Israel. They see President Obama in New York City the same day Bibi Netanyahu is and he, instead of meeting with him, goes on a — on a daily talk show,” Rep. Ryan said. 

Vice President Biden responded, “Now, with regard to Bibi, who’s been my friend 39 years, the president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He’s spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody. The idea that we’re not — I was in a, just before he went to the U.N., I was in a conference call with the — with the president, with him talking to Bibi for well over an hour, in — in — in stark relief and detail of what was going on.”