Turkey's prime minister said his country is ready to mediate between Iran and the incoming U.S. administration of Barack Obama.

In an interview in Wednesday's New York Times, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara could be "very useful" in nurturing ties between Tehran and Washington, strained over Iran's disputed nuclear program. He said Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad's overture of congratulations to Mr. Obama is "a step that has to be made use of."

Mr. Erdogan told the Times that the president-elect -- who has said he would consider breaking with long-standing U.S. policy and sit down with Iranian leaders -- offers a chance for America to reclaim "an image that's been lost."

Turkey has already been roiled by the war in Iraq on its border, and the specter of conflict in neighboring Iran. Mr. Erdogan told the Times "wars are never the solution in this age."

As a secular Islamic nation, member of both the U.N. Security Council and NATO, Turkey, standing at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, has recently tried to raise its regional profile.

Mr. Erdogan told the Times that Turkey's principle in foreign policy is not to earn enemies.

In the wake of the Georgian-Russian conflict in August, Ankara sought to head up a group to resolve conflicts in the Caucasus. The government has also been mediating talks between arch foes Syria and Israel and re-establishing ties with Armenia.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ali Babacan, today said he expects developments soon in the long-running dispute with Armenia, as well as the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The minister said he will visit Azerbaijan in the coming days. He said his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandian, may also visit Turkey as part of "diplomatic traffic" in the Caucasus.

Turkey sided with Azerbaijan in its dispute with Armenia over the largely Armenian-inhabited region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The foreign ministers of the three countries met in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.


Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.