Turkey wants to be the mediator between the new Obama administration and Iran, using its growing role in the Middle East to bridge the divide between East and West, the prime minister said.

Tayyip Erdogan told the New York Times (NYT) in an interview on Sunday that Barack Obama’s election opened new opportunities for a shift in relations between the United States and Iran, Turkey’s neighbor. The interview was published on Tuesday.

The U.S. president-elect Obama said during his campaign that he would consider holding talks with Iran, something the George W. Bush administration has long opposed.

Erdogan described the note of congratulations sent to Obama last week by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as "a step that has to be made use of," NYT reported.

"We are ready to be the mediator," Erdogan was quoted as saying before going to the United States to attend a meeting about the global economic crisis. "I do believe we could be very useful."

The United Nations has placed sanctions on Iran for a nuclear program that the U.S. and other nations say is working to the development of nuclear weaponry. Iran says the program is peaceful.

Turkey supports the position of its Western allies but argues that the sanctions are weakening Iranian reformists.

"We watch the relations between Iran and the U.S. with great concern," Erdogan also told NYT. "We expect such issues to be resolved at the table. Wars are never solutions in this age."

Turkey is against any country in the region to develop nuclear weapons but believes it is Iran's legitimate right to use nuclear energy for peaceful means.

Turkey fears an economically and politically isolated Iran, which supplies it with its principal alternative to Russian energy. It also wants to avoid another military conflict on its borders.