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Annan: Bush's Response to Iraq Report 'Positive'

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed President Bush's willingness to consider new strategies in Iraq. But as VOA's Peter Heinlein reports from the U.N., Mr. Annan acknowledged that there are no easy answers to Iraq's troubles.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Mr. Annan was asked his reaction to a high-level U.S. study group's recommendations on Iraq.

The secretary-general said he had not read the panel's report, which concludes U.S. policy is not working. But he described as "very positive" President Bush's comment that the recommendations are worth serious study.

"I think the idea that the president has asked for the report to look at other options and has indicated he's going to study it is a positive, is very positive, it's a very complex issue, there are no easy answers and the group that looked at the Iraq issue are very experienced men and women and I'm sure their advice will be taken seriously," said Kofi Annan.

The secretary-general said he knows and respects many members of the Iraq Study Group. Members of the panel interviewed him last month as they were preparing their report.

Mr. Annan earlier said he had told the Study Group Iran and Syria should be involved in any solution on Iraq. The panel did recommend engaging Iraq's neighbors, and the secretary-general was asked if he would urge Mr. Bush to talk with leaders Damascus and Tehran.

"The President will have to study the report and decide how to proceed, what to expect and how to implement it, but it is a well-known fact that in my contacts with the administration in the past I had urged them to talk to both Iran and Syria," he said.

In the past, President Bush has rejected talks with Iran and Syria. But at a news conference Thursday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the president hinted that he might consider talks under certain conditions.

Those conditions include a halt by Damascus and Tehran of funding for terrorism, and a pledge to support Iraq's government and economy.

Earlier this week, Mr. Bush hosted Secretary General Annan at a private dinner at the White House. Washington U.N. ambassador John Bolton also attended.

Few details of the dinner discussion have emerged, but Bolton indicated there was no healing of the sharp differences between U.N. and U.S. officials that have characterized Mr. Bolton's time as ambassador.