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Annan Encourages Direct US-Iran Talks

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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling on the United States to hold direct talks with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.

In an interview televised Thursday on U.S. public broadcasting's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Mr. Annan says Washington should join negotiations taking place between Tehran and the European trio of Britain, Germany and France.

The secretary-general says the Iranians probably believe the Europeans are consulting with Washington anyway. He says if all the key players engaged in dialogue, it may result in a satisfactory agreement.

The U.N. Security Council has begun debate over a draft resolution that invokes a section of the U.N. charter which can be used to authorize sanctions against Iran, as well as military force as a last resort.

Mr. Annan says it would be "a real tragedy" if the international community were to resort to violence. But he also believes Tehran has exaggerated recent statements that it has made substantial progress in enriching uranium.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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