WASHINGTON, Apr 16 (Reuters) The United States should hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear programme and go slow on sanctions, a leading Republican senator today said in contrast with the Bush administration stance of limited contacts and increased pressure over Tehran's nuclear programme.
''We need to make more headway diplomatically'' before moving toward sanctions, Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, said on the ABC television program ''This Week.'' The Bush administration has ruled out direct talks with Tehran over what it calls a drive to develop nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community, although it has opened a door to talks limited to Iran's alleged interference in neighbouring Iraq.
The administration says it is pursuing multilateral diplomacy through the United Nations to try to persuade Iran to change course.
Asked whether there should be direct US talks with Iran on the nuclear programme, which Iran says is for peaceful energy production, Lugar said, ''I think that would be useful.'' Iran was a part of the international ''energy picture,'' he said. ''We need to talk about that.'' State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said she had no comment. A White House spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
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