Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said that Iran's recent discussions with European countries over its nuclear programme, leading to Tehran agreeing for inspections, was an example to Washington of how problems could be solved.

"Iran is ready to negotiate with all countries and America is no exception," Kharazi told state television on Thursday.

"If it (Washington) adopts a new approach to Iran and is ready to interact with us based on mutual respect and the principle of equality, the atmosphere will change remarkably," he added.

In contrast to the European Union, which has a policy of "critical engagement" with Iran, Washington has largely shunned Iranian officials.

But Kharazi said Iran's negotiations with Britain, France and Germany, which led to Tehran's agreement last October to cooperate fully with UN inspectors, was a better approach.

"Our recent experience with Europe on the nuclear issue proved that problems can be solved by negotiation," he said.

In recent days, there has been speculation that the two foes may be moving towards some kind of rapprochement after US officials spoke of a willingness to resume a limited dialogue on specific issues.

Pre-conditions

Washington, which cut ties with Iran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution, also sent humanitarian aid to victims of the devastating 26 December earthquake in Bam.

There has been a gradual softening of tone from both sides lately, but both Tehran and Washington have set pre-conditions for improving ties.

The US wants Iran to hand over detained al-Qaida suspects, abandon its nuclear programme and stop backing Palestinian groups that attack Israel.

In turn, Iran has called on Washington to lift economic sanctions imposed in 1995, which prevent US companies from investing in the country, or trading in Iranian oil.

Iran also wants Washington to hand over members of the armed Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahidin, being held by US forces in Iraq, and to abandon efforts to weaken Iran's clerical leadership.