Iran would welcome talks between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, the country''s vice president said in an interview with Japan''s Kyodo news agency

Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie said in the interview in Tokyo that any such meeting must be held in an open manner and its contents made public, the agency said.

Mashaie told Kyodo the Iranian president had said "direct diplomacy is the best way to peace," but added that Obama must distance himself from Washington''s stance so far in order to implement change, Kyodo said.

Iran has repeatedly refused to bow to Western pressure to halt its nuclear program, which many fear is aimed at making nuclear weapons. Obama this month called for an international effort to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

"Mr. Obama stands at a historically significant crossroads, but there are only two paths for him -- one which leads to good results through ''change'' as promised in his slogan, the other with extremely grave consequences if he continues the same policies as previous administrations," Mashaie told Kyodo.

Iran said on Wednesday it was running 5,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, signaling an expansion of work it says is aimed at generating electricity.

Analysts believe Iran could be as little as one or two years from stockpiling enough enriched uranium to use for a bomb.

Tehran says it wants to generate electricity to enable it to export more of its oil and gas.