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Brazil's Lula Rejects Iran Sanctions, Urges Talks

PARIS (Reuters) -- Western powers should stop punishing Iran over its nuclear program and instead talk to it in order to foster peace, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said.

A rising diplomatic power campaigning to gain a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, Brazil has adopted a much more conciliatory line toward Iran than Western allies including the United States.

"I think there are a lot of sanctions and not enough conversations with Iran," Lula said during an interview with three French media, TV5 Monde, RFI radio, and "Le Monde" newspaper.

The West suspects Iran of trying to build nuclear bombs, while Tehran says its program is for peaceful power generation.

U.S. President Barack Obama has given Iran until later in September to take up an offer from the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, and Germany to discuss trade benefits if Tehran shelves nuclear enrichment. The alternative is to face harsher sanctions.

Lula rejected the idea of new sanctions, urging Western leaders to talk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"I think Obama should talk to him, [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy should talk to him, [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown should talk to him, I should, everybody should," he said.

"Stop punishing him. Third-level UN officials take decisions that punish a country and make it more and more isolated. It will get harder and harder to reach an agreement," he said, speaking through a French interpreter.

Lula gave the interview just ahead of a visit to Brazil by Sarkozy, who has been one of the most vocal Western leaders in criticizing Ahmadinejad and his disputed reelection. Sarkozy has repeatedly said Iranians deserved better than their current leadership.

Lula said electoral disputes were common all over the world, citing the 2000 presidential election in the United States, and said other countries should not meddle in Iran's internal affairs.