September 17, 2014 / 9:18 PM / 5 years ago

U.S., Iran to hold bilateral talks in New York this week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The No. 2 and 3 U.S. diplomats will hold bilateral talks with Iranian officials about Tehran’s nuclear program on Wednesday and Thursday in New York, the U.S. State Department said.

“Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman, and Senior Advisor Jacob J. Sullivan will travel to New York for consultations with Iranian officials September 17-18,” it said in a statement.

A U.S. official said the talks would concern the Iranian nuclear program, which the United States and some of its allies suspect may be designed to develop a bomb. Tehran denies this, saying its program is solely for peaceful purposes.

“The talks are going to be on the nuclear issue. At times other topics have come up on the sidelines, but that’s not the purpose or the intent, as is always the case,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said of the bilateral talks.

There have been questions about whether the United States might talk to Iran about fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq or in Syria. U.S. officials have said they will not “coordinate” with Iran but have not absolutely ruled out the possibility of talking to Iran about the issue.

“Following these bilateral meetings, Under Secretary Sherman will participate in the comprehensive nuclear negotiations of the P5+1 and European Union with Iran beginning September 18,” the State Department added in its statement.

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mohammad Zargham

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