Iran's leader writes to President Bush

Proposes 'new solutions for getting out of international problems'

Iran's leader has written to President Bush proposing "new solutions" to their differences in the first letter from an Iranian head of state to an American president in 27 years, a government spokesman said Monday.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki delivered the letter to the Swiss ambassador on Monday, ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told The Associated Press. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran houses a U.S. interests section.

In the letter, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposes "new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world," spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told a news conference.

Elham declined to reveal more, stressing "it is not an open letter." Asked whether the letter could lead to direct U.S.-Iranian negotiations, he replied: "For the time being, it's just a letter."

Elham did not mention the nuclear dispute - the main obstacle between Washington and Tehran. The United States is leading Western efforts to pass a U.N. Security Council motion censuring Iran for refusing to cease enrichment of uranium.

In Turkey, Iran's top nuclear negotiator said the letter "could lead to a new diplomatic opening," but also warned that it did not reflect a softening in Tehran's position.

Ali Larijani also refused to give details of the letter's content, adding: "Perhaps, it could lead to a new diplomatic opening, it needs to be given some time."

The letter is the first time that an Iranian president has written to his U.S. counterpart since 1979, when the two countries broke off relations after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and held the occupants hostage for more than a year.

In Washington, Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, said Monday that he was not aware of any such letter, and he reiterated the administration's position on Iran's nuclear program.

"The international community has been very clear to Iran what it needs to do," Hadley said on NBC's "Today" show. "It needs to return to the suspension of its nuclear activities in order to open the door for a diplomatic resolution."

Before the announcement by Iran, Bush said he was paying close attention to threats made against Israel by Ahmadinejad, who recently questioned Israel's right to exist and said the country should be wiped off the map.

"I think that it's very important for us to take his words very seriously," he told the German newspaper Bild on Friday, according to a transcript released Sunday. "When people speak, it is important that we listen carefully to what they say and take them seriously."

Earlier Monday, Larijani said Tehran would like to see a peaceful solution to growing tensions with the United States. He was in Turkey as part of efforts to rally support for Iran's nuclear program ahead of possible Security Council action.

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