U.S. ready to join talks with Iran if Tehran agrees to stop disputed nuclear activities

"To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table," Rice said in remarks prepared for delivery at the State Department.

The Swiss ambassador to the United States was called to the State Department earlier Wednesday to receive a copy of Rice's remarks for transmission to Iran, U.S. officials said. The United States has had no diplomatic ties with Iran and few contacts at all with its government since Islamic radicals took over the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and held diplomats there for more than a year.

The United States and the European nations that led stalled talks with Iran last year have agreed on the basics of a package of incentives for Iran if it is willing to give up its disputed activities, Rice said.

"We hope that in the coming days the Iranian government will thoroughly consider this proposal," Rice said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the United States will not enter one-on-one talks with Iran. The European talks included Britain, France and Germany, the AP reports.

The United States has refused repeated calls from European nations, other leading diplomats and former U.S. secretaries of state to join the talks or make other diplomatic overtures to Iran.

The agreement to join talks now represents a major shift in policy for the Bush administration, which has been deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions and the prime mover for tough United Nations action against the clerical regime.