The US and five other world powers have said they are seeking an "early negotiated solution" to the standoff with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany announced the new diplomatic overture to Iran on the sidelines of a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
Iran has indicated a new willingness to engage the international community over its nuclear programme. But so far it has failed to meet the terms for talks, and its defiance triggered new UN Security Council sanctions in June.
"We agreed to sanctions in June ... Now is the time for Iran to engage in real negotiation, in actual constructive dialogue, about its whole nuclear programme," William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said.
"The unity of the (six) shows that Iran can't simply walk away from this and refuse to talk about it. The world is not going to forget about this issue."
'Early negotiated solution'
In a statement, the six "reaffirmed our determination and commitment to seek an early negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and focused our discussion on further practical steps to achieve it at an early date".
US officials said there were signs from the Iranians that they may be ready for a meeting in the fall.
A senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said afterwards that the six powers were ready for "such a process, we're committed to a diplomatic resolution and it remains to be seen whether the Iranians are".
The statement read out by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said the six powers are "ready to engage with Iran" in the context of implementing a nuclear fuel swap deal that was agreed in Geneva in October last year.
It said that they looked forward to an "early meeting" with Iran and were prepared to discuss a "revised arrangement," apparently because Iran has enriched much more uranium in the past year.
Under the deal, Iran would ship most of its low-grade uranium to France and Russia so that it could be enriched further and returned to Iran to fuel a medical research reactor in Tehran.
The deal had been designed to buy time and build confidence while the world community presses Iran to meet its demand to halt uranium enrichment, a program western powers fear masks a drive for a nuclear bomb.
But the deal stalled as Iran sought to modify its terms.
In June, the UN Security Council then approved a fourth round of sanctions against the Islamic republic, which in turn said it would suspend talks until September.
The chief diplomats also "committed themselves" to the full implementation of the new sanctions, the senior US official said.
Feeling the pinch
In Moscow, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, signed on Wednesday a decree banning supplies of S-300 missiles and other arms to Iran, in line with the tougher military and financial sanctions adopted in June.
The US, which spearheaded the drive for the sanctions, has long argued that Iran will only return to the negotiating table once it feels them bite.
Iran denies US contentions that the Islamic republic is starting to feel the pinch.
The six powers renewed calls for Iran to comply with international demands. Those are that Iran fully open up its nuclear facilities to inspection and halt uranium enrichment.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, said that his country was ready to resume talks with world powers over its nuclear programme.
Meanwhile, Brazil, Russia, India and China intend to submit a non-binding resolution to the UN opposing unilateral sanctions the US, Japan, and other countries have taken in addition to the UN sanctions, according to Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies