US Secretary of State Colin Powell, recovering from prostate cancer, discussed with Annan by telephone a possible 15 January meeting date, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Friday. 

Officials from the United Nations, the US-British occupation authority in Iraq and the interim Iraqi Governing Council would participate in the meeting, which Washington did not oppose but would like to know more about, Ereli said. 

"We certainly appreciate the secretary general's interest in exploring ways to get the UN more involved - more actively involved - in Iraq," said the spokesman. 

Dialogue

"We certainly welcome a dialogue between the UN and the Iraqis that would lead to a closer on-the-ground working relationship in Iraq itself. And we would certainly be willing to play a supportive role in that process." 

"We are in discussions with officials at the UN and the secretary general to get a better idea of what specifically they have in mind and how specifically that could contribute to the goals that we all share," he added. 

Annan first referred to a possible meeting in New York on Thursday. He said that some members of the Iraqi interim council would be present and that preliminary talks with the US-led occupation authority had just begun. 

Annan has not yet given details about the level of representation that would participate, where it would be, or what would be on the agenda.