White House open to one-on-one talks with Iranians over nuclear program

President Obama would welcome one-on-one talks with Iran aimed at getting the country to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program, White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed Tuesday.

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“You heard the president say last night … he's open to considering bilateral talks with Iran in order to make sure that Iran meets its international obligations,” Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. “His red line is that Iran cannot and must not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

During Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy, the president said a recent New York Times report that the two countries had agreed to starting bilateral talks “in principle” was “not true.” 

But while needling Mitt Romney over his past stance against such talks, Obama mentioned “our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program.”

Carney reiterated that no talks are set, but said the president is open to the idea.

“We have no talks scheduled, we have no agreement with the Iranians,” Carney said. “Obviously we are, and have been, interested in pursuing (multilateral) negotiations with the Iranians.

“We have been open to consider (bilateral) negotiations. But we have nothing scheduled and we have no agreement with the Iranians to do that.”

Romney did not categorically rule out one-on-one talks with Iran during Tuesday's debate. 

But the Republican nominee called for tougher sanctions, including blocking ships that carry Iranian oil from entering U.S. ports and punishing oil traders. Romney also said he would pursue Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under the United Nations' global justice system for “genocide incitation.”