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Iran leader offers Bush 'new ways out'

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter to President Bush proposing "new ways" to resolve their differences, an Iranian government spokesman says.

In the letter -- believed to be the first from an Iranian leader to an American president in 27 years -- Ahmadinejad proposes "new ways for exiting from the current critical situation," Gholam-Hossein Elham said Monday.

Elham, quoted by the state-run television and radio network IRIB, said Ahmadinejad had "analyzed the current international condition and has pointed out the way to find the root causes."

The letter -- which does not directly mention the contentious issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions -- was sent to Bush through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, Elham said.

Aneesh Raman, CNN's correspondent in Tehran, said the letter is expected to arrive at the White House on Monday.

"The specifics of the letter will not be made public until Bush receives the letter," Raman said.

The key question is whether the letter will lead to any "direct talks" between Iran and the United States, he added.

According to the state-run news agency IRNA, Ahmadinejad told reporters he had decided to send letters to leaders of certain countries on the occasion of "Year of Great Prophet Mohammad."

It is believed to be the first correspondence between the presidents of Iran and the United States since 1980, when Washington broke off ties with Tehran over the hostage crisis.

The announcement came just ahead of a meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council in New York.

Delegates will discuss a draft resolution on Iran that was introduced last week by the United States, France and Britain.

The draft resolution, drawn up under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, demands Tehran give up its production of nuclear fuel or face penalties that could include economic sanctions.

Russia and China, the other two permanent members of the Security Council, have said they oppose sanctions.

The draft calls on Iran to act "without further delay" to reassure the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, about the intent of its nuclear work, suspend the production of enriched uranium and halt construction of a heavy-water reactor.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants or, in much higher concentrations, to produce a nuclear explosion, while heavy-water reactors can be used to produce plutonium -- another element that can be used to produce a nuclear blast.

The draft leaves blank any time period for Iran to comply.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday that any consideration of a nuclear attack against Iran would be "absolutely absurd," The Associated Press reported.

"I don't know anybody who is even talked or contemplated the prospect of a nuclear strike in Iran and that would be absolutely absurd," Blair said at his monthly news conference.

-- CNN's Aneesh Raman and journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report



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