World powers urged Iran to take the opportunity to engage in talks with the US as a move to find a diplomatic solution to its nuclear issue.
In a statement released on Wednesday after a meeting in London, the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said they would ask EU Foreign Policy Chief, Javier Solana, to invite Tehran to a meeting to find "a diplomatic solution to this critical issue".
The statement by the major world powers came as US President Barack Obama declared that Washington would participate in future talks on Iran's nuclear program.
In a clear change of tone, the Obama administration said the United States would be ready to engage in direct talks on the nuclear issue.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that William Burns, the State Department's number three official, would now take part in the dialogue "as a full participant, not just as an observer." "Obviously, we believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests -- and the interests of the world -- with Iran make sense," Clinton told reporters. "There's nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its effort to obtain nuclear weapons," she said
"We strongly urge Iran to take advantage of this opportunity to engage seriously with all of us in a spirit of mutual respect," the six powers said.
Negotiations with Iran are expected to begin within the next few weeks, a Western diplomat said.
"What is different is that the US will join the ... discussions with Iran from now on," a US State Department spokesman said. "If Iran accepts ... we hope this will be the occasion to seriously engage Iran on how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program.
"A senior adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran will decide on the offer of nuclear talks after reviewing the details. "We will review it and then decide about it," Ali Akbar Javanfekr said.
At the meantime, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Iranian nation would shake the hand extended by the new US administration if its overture were honest.
Ahmadinejad's comments came just a few weeks after the US President sent a message to the Iranian nation and government in which he announced US' willingness to open dialogue with Iran.
The Iranian President, however, underlined the need for "a real change" on the part of Washington.
"The Iranian nation will shake an honest hand which is extended towards it but if the hand only appears to be honest and is in fact deceptive in nature it will receive a response just like the one the Iranian nation gave to former US President George W. Bush," Ahmadinejad said in the central city of Isfahan on Wednesday.
He stressed that Iran expected a policy change in practice, not mere talks from the White House.
Obama in his New Year message to Iran had urged Tehran to take the necessary steps to begin a new era of "constructive ties" between Iran and the US.