Obama administration responds to report that both sides have agreed in principle to one-on-one discussions after election

The Obama administration has moved quickly to water down a report that the US and Iran have agreed in principle to meet one-on-one for negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme.

The New York Times said secret talks between officials that began early in Barack Obama's term as president had delivered the provisional agreement. Iran had insisted the talks wait until after the November presidential election, the New York Times said, attributing the information to a senior official in the Obama administration.

However the National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in response that the United States would continue to work with fellow permanent members of the UN security council and Germany.

"It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections," the statement said.

"We continue to work with the P5+1 [five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany] on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally."

Vietor said on Saturday that Obama had made clear that he would do whatever was necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Vietor said Iran must meet its obligations or it would "continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure".

Obama and the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, will meet on Monday night in a debate focusing on foreign policy. Iran's nuclear ambitions will likely be a topic.

Obama has said he will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He hopes sanctions alongside negotiations can get Iran to halt uranium enrichment, but the strategy has not worked yet.

Obama has held out the threat of military action as a last resort but Romney has accused Obama of being weak on Iran, saying the US needs to step up the military threat.

© Guardian News and Media 2012