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White House dismisses calls for direct Iran talks

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, May 14 : The White House today dismissed calls for direct talks with Iran to resolve the stand-off over its nuclear program, saying the United Nations was the best forum for those discussions.

''We think the framework we have is even better, we have a number of countries that are engaged with Iran on this issue, we are supportive of those discussions,'' White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley told CNN.

U N Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the United States on Friday to enter into direct talks with Tehran, as have others.

But Hadley said the United Nations was the preferred forum for the talks.

''The forum has now shifted to a discussion in the U N Security Council where the international community as a whole, of which the United States is a part, can make clear to Iran what it needs to do,'' he told CNN's ''Late Edition. ''We think that's the right forum at this time for this issue.'' Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who sent an 18-page letter to President George W. Bush last week, said over the weekend that he was ready to talk with any country except Israel and not under threat of force.

Bush dismissed the letter, saying it did not addressing the issue of when Iran would abandon its nuclear program, which the West suspects is a cover for building weapons.

Iran says the program is merely for peaceful power generation.

Britain, France and Germany, backed by the United States, Russia and China, are to unveil a package of inducements and penalties for Iran depending on whether it cooperates or resists Western calls that it halt uranium enrichment.

''We are looking at the kinds of sanctions that might be applied if it does not make the right choice. We're also looking at the kinds of benefits that might be applied if Iran does make the right choice,'' Hadley said.

''There have been a lot of opportunities for Iran to make the right choice, which is respond to the will of the international community and give assurances, by getting out of the enrichment business, that it's not pursuing a nuclear bomb,'' he said.


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