Senior Iranian officials told Reuters that Iran is ready to work
with the United States and its allies to stop Islamic State
militants but would like more flexibility on Iran's uranium
enrichment program in exchange.
Asked to respond, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the idea
was unacceptable, remarks that echoed those from other Western
powers in the negotiations with Tehran. European officials have also
made clear they do not want to bring other issues into the nuclear
Earnest said the effort by world powers, including the United
States, to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program is "entirely
separate" from President Barack Obama's attempts to build a
coalition against Islamic State.
"The United States will not be in the position of trading aspects of
Iran's nuclear program to secure commitments to take on ISIL,"
Earnest said, using an acronym for Islamic State (IS).
He also said the United States would not coordinate the coalition's
military activities with the Iranians and would not share
intelligence on Islamic State with Iran.
Islamic State forces have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria and
proclaimed a caliphate. They stand accused of massacres of
civilians, beheadings and other human rights violations.
While not surprising, the U.S. response suggests the White House
feels a need to tell Iran publicly that it wants other issues kept
away from the nuclear talks.
The comments from Iranian officials about linking the nuclear
negotiations and the fight against Islamic State highlight how
difficult it may be for the Western powers to separate the atomic
negotiations from other topics.
[to top of second column]
Iran wields influence in the Syrian civil war and on the Iraqi
government, which is fighting the advance of Islamic State fighters.
The latest round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United
States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China began last week
and is expected to run at least until Friday.
No major breakthroughs are expected in the negotiations in New York,
which are aimed at coming up with a deal that would end sanctions on
Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. The sides have
set a Nov. 24 deadline for a long-term accord between Iran and the
(Reporting By Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland, additional
reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Bill Trott
and Howard Goller)
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