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Romney, Obama aides clash over Iran talks

October 21, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio) greets supporters before a campaign rally with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio) greets supporters before a campaign rally with… (Mark Duncan / Associated…)

A top advisor to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney warned that the Obama administration may be about to “jettison” its international partners as the president contemplates one-on-one talks with Iran over its nuclear weapons program.

Obama's side emphasized his commitment to the international coalition that the U.S. has led against Iran and credited the president with bringing worldwide pressure to bear on the Tehran regime.

The two sides clashed via representatives on the Sunday morning talk shows as President Obama and Romney prepared for Monday's final campaign debate, which is scheduled to focus on foreign policy.

They focused on news that the Obama administration might be moving toward post-election one-on-one talks with Iran about that country's nuclear ambitions. U.S. officials say Iran has offered to begin such talks after months of balking at negotiations.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ind.) signaled that Romney is skeptical of the development. The idea of direct talks between the U.S. and Iran “sounds like the U.S. is taking a position that we’re likely to jettison our allies,” he said. He also downplayed Obama's role in imposing tough sanctions on Iran, arguing that they came only as a result of congressional pressure to impose them.

“The last thing we would want to do is abandon our allies and make it a one-on-one” conversation, Portman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Advisors to the president say he is also skeptical of the Iranian interest in resuming talks because of their history in using diplomacy as a ruse for stalling and wiggling out of agreements to reveal information about their nuclear program.

Any talks involving the administration would be done “in coordination” with the other world leaders involved in the ongoing talks, said one senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the internal discussion.

Speaking on the same program as Portman, David Axelrod, a senior campaign advisor to the president, emphasized Obama’s commitment to working with international partners.

Obama is the one who put together this “withering international coalition” now putting such pressure on Iran, Axelrod said. The sanctions are bringing Iran “to its knees,” Axelrod said, arguing that Iran is "feeling the heat.”

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

Twitter: @cparsons

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