U.S. to join group talks over Iran's nuclear program

The United States will join five other countries in direct talks with Iran to find a diplomatic resolution to a dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The United States will join five other countries in direct talks with Iran to find a diplomatic resolution to a dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

After meeting with European Union officials in London Wednesday, Britain, the U.S., China, France, Germany and Russia appealed to Iran to engage in talks on what they termed a "critical issue."

The countries fear Iran is looking to enrich uranium with the goal of building nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied, insisting it only wants to harness nuclear energy for use in power plants.

"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 said in a joint statement.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood confirmed Wednesday the United States would be at the table from now on when senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany meet with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear issue.

It is not immediately clear when the talks would occur.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said his administration is looking for opportunities to engage Iran and pledged to rethink Washington's relationship with Tehran, which soured considerably while his predecessor George W. Bush was in power.

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was willing to return Obama's call for increased dialogue between the two countries, provided the U.S. president was sincere.

"If a hand has truly been extended with sincerity, based on justice and respect, Iran will welcome it," Ahmadinejad said Wednesday during a speech in the city of Isfahan. "If it's a hand that is sincere in appearance and deep down dishonest, Iran's answer will be the same as the one given to Mr. Bush."

With files from the Associated Press