November 24, 2013 / 6:33 AM / 4 years ago

U.S. had side talks with Iran in recent months: senior U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States held some previously undisclosed direct talks with Iranian counterparts in recent months in the drive to reach a nuclear deal, a senior U.S. official said.

The talks were in addition to the negotiations between officials of six major powers and Iran, the official told reporters.

“We had some limited bilateral discussions with the Iranians in addition to the P5-plus-one negotiations that were aimed at developing ideas that we could provide in the P5-plus-one negotiations,” the official said.

Since an exchange of letters between President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, relations between the United States and Iran have warmed slightly.

But the extent of the communications between the two countries in the search for a nuclear agreement was not known until a deal was sealed in talks in Geneva between Iran and the six powers.

The senior American official defended the arrangement as helpful to the process and said that U.S. ally Israel was kept informed of the details.

“The United States has always been crystal clear that the P5-plus-one is the venue for negotiations with Iran towards an agreement on the nuclear issue,” the official said.

The official did not name who was involved in the effort, but said the “limited bilateral discussions” took place in September, October and November.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Walsh and Pravin Char

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