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Iran president to send letter to Pope - paper

Written by: Staff
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TEHRAN, May 18 (Reuters) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is writing a letter to Pope Benedict, following an unprecedented letter to US President George W Bush earlier this month, a newspaper said today.

''President Ahmadinjad's second letter is for Pope Benedict and will be sent in the next days,'' Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper, which is close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The newspaper gave no details of the letter's content. Iranian officials were not available to comment.

In the first direct communication between the two countries' presidents for more than two decades, Ahmadinejad wrote a long missive to Bush this month in which he questioned his commitment to Christian values and criticised US foreign policy.

Some Iranian analysts and Western diplomats interpreted the letter as a veiled offer to open talks with Washington on the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

But Washington has said it has no intention of holding direct talks with Iran on the issue.

Britain, France and Germany, the European Union's three biggest powers, plan to offer Iran a package of incentives to try to induce Tehran to freeze a uranium enrichment programme which the West suspects could be used to make atomic bombs.

Ahamdinejad has ruled out halting nuclear fuel work in return for incentives, saying the Europeans were offering ''candy for gold''.

REUTERS PR ND1732

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