For the first time, Iran has agreed to direct negotiations with the U.S. regarding the country’s nuclear capability, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The report says that, according to officials in President Barack Obama’s administration, their Iranian counterparts have asked for the meetings to be delayed until after the results of the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election between Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Obama and Romney will have their final debate, centering on foreign policy, on Oct. 22. Earlier this month, Romney said in a campaign speech he “would not hesitate” to impose new sanctions on Iran. He also promised in July to “respect” a strike by Israel against the country’s nuclear facilities if it felt it was necessary.
The Obama administration has had financial and energy sanctions in place against Iran on top of existing United Nations sanctions.
But the agreement itself comes after years of secret discussions between both parties. It is unknown whether the Iranian supreme authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had “signed off” on these talks, but the report said the Iranian officials involved report directly to him.
American officials told the Times that one potential sticking point could be the scope of the discussion; while the U.S. is reportedly interested in keeping the talks centered on Iran’s nuclear program, the report said, Iranian officials also want to discuss other points of conflict like Syria and Bahrain.
“We’ve always seen the nuclear issue as independent,” said one anonymous American official. “We’re not going to allow them to draw a linkage.”