The United States has warned it will not trade concessions on Iran’s nuclear program for Tehran’s cooperation in combating Islamic State (IS).
Ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York, Washington made its most explicit statement yet that it will not bring other issues into the nuclear negotiations.
“The United States will not be in a position of trading aspects of Iran’s nuclear program to secure commitments to take on ISIL,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“These two issues are entirely separate, and the focus of the P5+1 talks will remain on resolving the international community’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.”
Senior Iranian officials have reportedly said Tehran is ready to work with the US and its allies to stop IS militants but would like more flexibility on its uranium enrichment program in exchange.
But Washington echoed other Western powers saying nuclear negotiations with Iran, known as the P5+1, should not be linked with the fight against IS jihadists.
Mr Earnest said coordination on military activities and sharing intelligence with Iran was not an option.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday the West should not ease sanctions on Iran to win its support in the fight against the jihadists.
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.
Iran and the six powers involved in the Iranian nuclear talks – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany – are meeting at UN headquarters on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
No major breakthroughs are expected in the negotiations, which are aimed at coming up with a deal that would end sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
France sees no legal hurdle to attacking IS in Syria
Also in New York for the UN General Assembly, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told reporters he saw no legal obstacle to attacking IS in Syria even though France has said it did not plan air strikes there.
“There is not, to our way of thinking, any legal impediment to responding to Islamic State attacks in Iraq as well as in Syria,” Mr Fabius said on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.
There is not, to our way of thinking, any legal impediment to responding to Islamic State attacks in Iraq as well as in Syria.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
France last week became the first foreign government to join the United States by conducting air strikes in Iraq against IS.
At a think tank earlier in the day, Mr Fabius stressed his nation would not launch air strikes against IS militants based in Syria despite having bombed a suspected target of the group in northern Iraq last week.
His stance on the legal question appeared at variance with the view expressed by French president Francois Hollande, who last week stressed that France had acted in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government but had no similar authority in Syria.
“I think it is possible to act. Therefore the question is not a question of legality, international legality. But, first, France cannot do everything. And second, we consider that to support the moderate opposition and to fight both Bashar and Daech (Islamic State) is a necessity,” Mr Fabius said.
France is the only western nation to have publicly admitted to arming Assad’s opponents, although it limited deliveries once IS gained territory.