Iranian lawmaker claims Obama called for direct talks with Iran

An Iranian lawmaker said Wednesday that President Obama called for direct talks with Iran in a letter he sent last week to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But an Obama administration official told The Hill there was no letter sent from Obama last week in which the president called for direct talks.

Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency quoted Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahari as saying “In the letter, Obama called for direct talks with Iran," according to The Associated Press. “The letter also said that closing the Strait of Hormuz is (Washington's) red line.”

Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesman, declined comment specifically on the letter, but said the White House has “a number of ways to communicate our views to the Iranian government, and we have used those mechanisms regularly on a range of issues over the years.”

“I’m not going to get into the details of those communications or mechanisms,” Vietor said. “But any message that we have delivered to the Iranian government would be the same as what we’ve said publicly.”

Last week, The New York Times reported that Obama had sent a letter to Khamenei warning Iran not to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping line in the Persian Gulf.

Iran has threatened to close the strait in response to economic sanctions designed to stop its nuclear program. U.S. officials have said publicly that the United States would not allow Iran to close the strait, and would use military options if necessary to re-open it.

When asked about the letter at a press briefing Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined to comment on its contents, saying the United States has “always made clear” to Iran what its policies are on Iran’s nuclear program and closing the strait.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said at Wednesday’s press briefing that restarting nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is a “path here for Iran to pursue if it so chooses that would allow it to get right with the international community.”

“But Iran has shown no inclination this far to make that choice,” Carney said.

This post was updated at 4:20 p.m.