European officials have hailed a decision by the US to send a senior envoy to weekend talks in Geneva with Iran aimed at resolving the dispute over Tehran''s nuclear work.

The decision by the United States to send William Burns, the under secretary of state for politicial affairs, to nuclear talks with Iran on Saturday, July 19, in Geneva has has been welcomed by many as a shift in Washington''s hard-line stance towards Iran.

Burns will join EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and officials from Britain , France , Germany , Russia and China for talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili.

"We are very pleased by the administration''s decision," Cristina Gallach, Solana''s spokeswoman, said in an interview with The New York Times this week. "It is a clear signal to the Iranians of the engagement of the United States and its commitment to a negotiated solution. At the same time, it is a clear message to the Iranians of the seriousness of this exercise."

World leaders are holding talks with Iran to assess the response to their enhanced offer of financial and diplomatic incentives to halt Tehran ''s covert uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is being used to develop nuclear weapons.