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John Negroponte (center, in file photo) (epa)
January 31, 2007 -- U.S. President George W. Bush's choice for the No. 2 position in the State Department says the United States is reluctant to hold direct talks with Iran until there is progress in the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.
John Negroponte, who is expected to move to the State Department after having served nearly two years as the first-ever director of National Intelligence, made the comment on January 30 to a Senate panel considering his nomination.
Washington accuses Tehran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge that Iranian officials reject.
The UN Security Council has imposed limited sanctions against Iran in an effort to persuade it to stop its uranium-enrichment activities.
The United States has not had official diplomatic relations with Iran since the hostage crisis that followed the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Some experts advocate opening a direct dialogue to address contentious issues that include Iran's nuclear activities and security and stability in Iraq.
The congressionally appointed Iraq Study Group recognized Iran's ability to influence events in neighboring Iraq and recommended dialogue with Iran and Syria as an avenue to boosting Iraqi security and stability.
Bush labeled Iran -- along with North Korea and Iraq -- part of an "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address.