A top Russian official is due in Iran for talks on the nuclear standoff with the West.

Local media reports say Russia's national security council chief Igor Ivanov will hold talks with Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani during the two-day visit.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany have been working on a package of incentives to try to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium.  The group also is considering punitive measures in case incentives fail.

The United States has said it is not interested in negotiating directly with Iran and has left this to its European partners.

But a report in the New York Times Saturday says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is discussing with top aides the possibility of direct contacts with Iran.

That report says Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have opposed direct talks, although European officials want the U.S. to join in talks with Tehran

The Times is quoting anonymous European officials and others close to the Bush administration.

It says influential foreign policy experts, including former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, have urged direct talks with Iran.

The U.S. has avoided direct contact ever since Iranian revolutionaries seized U.S. embassy employees in 1979 and held them hostage for a year.

The U.S. and Europe believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.