The world should not isolate Iran over its nuclear programme, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an interview published on Tuesday.
Annan, however, said Tehran must take steps to reassure the international community that it is not aiming to build an atomic weapon.
"The international community should not isolate Iran," Annan told the Madrid daily El Pais in an interview during his stop in Doha, Qatar, after visiting Iran over the weekend.
Annan has made clear he wants a negotiated solution to the impasse, which deepened after Iran ignored an August 31 UN Security Council deadline to stop its uranium enrichment programme. That set the stage for possible UN economic and political sanctions.
Annan said confrontation with the Security Council "will not be in Iran's favour or that of the region."
The UN chief on Sunday met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who told him that Iran favoured talks over its nuclear programme but would not halt uranium enrichment before entering negotiations as demanded by the West.
Iran's unyielding stance appears to be based on the calculation that Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members who have major commercial ties with Iran, will oppose sanctions.
The oil-rich nation insists its nuclear work is peaceful, intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity.
But Iran needs to convince the international community about its programme, Annan said.