(AP) - Russia and China welcomed a U.S. offer Wednesday to hold talks with Iran if it suspends uranium enrichment, but China said Washington's offer should be unconditional and include security guarantees.
European nations approved, with Germany urging Tehran to seize a "once-in-a-lifetime gesture" from the United States, reports Trend.
In the Arab world, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah urged Iran and the international community on Wednesday to exercise flexibility in the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.
Both leaders hold the same view that "the Middle East region does not need any nuclear weapon, be it in the hand of Iran or Israel," Mubarak's spokesman, Suleiman Awwad, said.
The offer came a day before U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. plus Germany meet in Vienna, Austria, to discuss incentives and potential punishments to encourage Iranian officials to suspend the nuclear program.
"We can only hope that those responsible in Tehran recognize the value of this offer and react accordingly," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called the announcement the "strongest and most positive signal of our common wish to reach an agreement with Iran."
In a major policy shift, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States will come to the negotiating table as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities.
"I think that certainly it is a welcome move but I do hope that these direct talk will not have any preconditions," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya
He said security assurances to Iran, which diplomats have said Washington opposes, are a necessary carrot.
We'll welcome a very active participation of the United States on this diplomatic effort," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
"The more Washington talks about diplomacy and political process and not something else, the better it is as far as we're concerned," Churkin said. "We all need to go extra miles in this."
China and Russia have close economic and security ties to Iran and have been the strongest opponents of a proposed Security Council resolution backed by the United States, Britain and France that could lead to sanctions and possible military action if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment.