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Iran's Supreme Leader Backs Talks With U.S. On Iraq --> U.S. President Bush said he favors talks between Iran and Zalmay Khalilzad (pictured), the U.S. ambassador to Iraq (file photo) (epa) March 22, 2006 -- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given his backing to proposed talks between representatives of Iran and the United States about the situation in Iraq.

In a speech televised in Iran on March 21, Khamenei said Iran would not tolerate what he called "bullying" by American officials.

He said Iranian officials would tell the Americans to leave Iraq.

President George W. Bush said he favored talks between Iranian officials and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. He said the United States wants to tell Iran what Washington views as wrong or right concerning Iran's activities in Iraq.

"I gave [Zalmay Khalilzad], our ambassador in Iraq, permission to explain to the Iranians what we didn't like about their involvement in Iraq," Bush said. "I thought it was important for them to hear first hand, other than through press accounts. He (Khalilzad) asked whether or not it made sense for him to be able to talk to a [Iranian] representative in Baghdad. I said, 'Absolutely. You make it clear to them that attempts to spread sectarian violence or to maybe move parts that could be used for [improvised explosive devices] is unacceptable to the United States.'"

Both Iranian and U.S. officials have said they expect the proposed talks to focus only on Iraq and not on Iran's controversial nuclear program.

(compiled from agency reports)

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