WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing Obama administration officials.
Iranian officials have insisted the talks not begin until after the November 6 U.S. election because they want to know which U.S. president they will be negotiating with, a senior administration official told the Times.
The Times said the agreement was the result of secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Barack Obama's term in 2009.
The White House declined to comment on the Times report when contacted by Reuters.
The United States and other Western powers have charged that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the program is for peaceful purposes. Israel has said it would use military force to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has attacked Obama for failing to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. The two candidates will meet on Monday in their final debate, which will focus on foreign policy.
The U.S.-Iranian agreement had been reached with senior Iranian officials who report to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an unnamed administration official told the Times.
(Reporting by Todd Eastham, editing By Paul Simao)