By Associated Press
ELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney on Sunday refused to say if he would be open to one-on-one talks with Iran if elected president.
The presidential candidate took time away from debate preparations to officiate the coin toss at a flag football game between reporters and his senior campaign aides. But he did not answer questions about how he would handle talks about the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program, how he was feeling about the Monday night debate with President Barack Obama or about a new poll showing a close race.
“I thought you were talking about one-on-one talks with the president, I was about to answer,” Romney joked when a reporter assigned to cover his visit to the beach game asked about Iran.
He also refused to answer a follow-up question about whether he felt about this week’s debate with Obama, which is focused on foreign policy.
“Ready for football,” Romney said.
The White House on Saturday said Obama’s administration is prepared to talk one-on-one with Iran to find a diplomatic settlement to the impasse over Tehran’s reported pursuit of nuclear weapons, though there’s no agreement now to meet.
While Romney’s campaign has not addressed the specific proposal, the Republican has taken a hawkish line on Iran and its suspected attempts to develop a nuclear weapon. Romney has said he would tighten sanctions on the country, though he has not specified how.
Despite unprecedented global penalties, Iran’s nuclear program is advancing as it continues to defy international pressure, including four rounds of sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, to prove that its atomic intentions are peaceful.
Those sanctions, coupled with tough measures imposed by the United States and European nations are taking their toll, particularly on Iran’s economy. Iranian authorities have in recent weeks been forced to quell protests over the plummeting value of the country’s currency. The rial lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in a week in early October, but has since slightly rebounded.
The topic is likely to come up during Monday’s debate on foreign policy.
With less than three weeks before Election Day, Romney on Sunday headed to Delray Beach, where senior staffers were gathered across from the press team, all in flag football uniforms. Romney walked down through the sand to officiate the coin toss and buck up his team.
The former Massachusetts governor handed bracelets to both team captains, reporter Ashley Parker and Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho. He told them the bracelets read, “Clear eyes, full hearts, America can’t lose.” It’s a version of the slogan from TV’s “Friday Night Lights.”
After the coin toss, Romney gathered his aides into a huddle and led them in a cheer.
“Figure out which of their players is best and take them out early,” Romney said jokingly. “That’s right, don’t worry about injuries guys, this counts. Win.”
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