U.N. official says Secretary-General Kofi Annan has written a letter to Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, demanding the release of a jailed dissident journalist.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because Iran had not yet received the letter, said Mr. Annan is seeking Akbar Ganji's immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

Mr. Ganji was jailed in 2001, after writing news stories linking public officials to the murders of political dissidents.

Two months ago, he began a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. He remains in government custody at a Tehran hospital and is believed to be in critical condition.

Iranian officials say Mr. Ganji has ended the hunger strike. But his wife told VOA she could not confirm the claim because she had been denied access to her husband.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.