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Iranian officials insist on waiting until after US elections. Better be sure they're talking to their right counterparts.
"News of the agreement".comes at a critical time in the presidential contest".(I)intense, secret exchanges" preceded it. Obama may want to claim a diplomatic breakthrough. At the same time, he risks opposition elements claiming he's letting Tehran buy time.
In campaign mode, Romney is hardline. He accuses Obama of being soft on Iran and expressing less than full support for Israel. If elected, conciliatory efforts won't be fast-tracked. Regime change perhaps by war will be prioritized.
According to White House spokesman Tommy Vietor:
"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 added that Obama officials are open to such talks. They "said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally."
The Times said Iran wants multiple issues discussed. Much more is important regionally than its nuclear program. An unnamed US official told The Times, "We've always seen the nuclear issue as independent. We're not going to allow (Tehran) to draw a linkage."
Former Bush administration under secretary of state Nicholas Burns said, "It would be unconscionable to go to war if we haven't had such discussions."
Iran's nuclear program "is the most difficult national security issue facing the United States. While we should preserve the use of force as a last resort, negotiating first with Iran makes sense. What are we going to do instead? Drive straight into a brick wall called war in 2013, and not try to talk to them?"
Israel's US ambassador Michael Oren said Obama officials hadn't discussed direct talks with his government. Israel fears Iran would use them to "advance their nuclear weapons program."
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