WASHINGTON (AP) _ Expanding a guarded U.S. overture to Iran, the Clinton administration said Wednesday that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami apparently was taking a positive stance on peacemaking between Israel and the Arabs.

``It may be a nuanced change in a positive direction,'' said James Foley, the deputy State Department spokesman.

Foley's statement was in response to reports that while Khatami had reiterated Tehran's objections to the peacemaking, he also said he respected other countries' rights to their own views.

``It is a rhetorical nuance that represents language that we haven't heard, I believe, previously. And in that sense, it is positive,'' Foley said.

The Clinton administration has said its attempted isolation of Iran is due in part to what U.S. officials said was Iran's sponsorship of terrorism and a campaign to subvert peacemaking between Israel and the Arabs.

``Support for terrorism and violent opposition to the Middle East peace process are questions involving actions, and at the end of the day, we're looking for change in actions,'' Foley said.

The diplomatic dance with Tehran began with Khatami's landslide election in May, reflecting apparent dismay with 18 years of rigidly fundamentalist rule.

On Sunday, Khatami spoke hopefully of a ``thoughtful dialogue'' that would bring the American and Iranian people ``closer to peace, security and tranquillity.''

President Clinton reciprocated Tuesday, saying it was ``tragic that the United States was separated from the people of Iran.''

``Do I hope that there will be some conditions under which this dialogue can resume? I certainly hope so,'' Clinton added.

On Wednesday, Foley said the United States was seeking a dialogue ``without preconditions,'' and that Iran should state its position on that publicly.

In such talks, the United States would take up ``Iranian actions in the field of terrorism, violent opposition to the Middle East peace process, and development of weapons of mass destruction,'' Foley said.

``We also recognize that the Iranians may have issues that they want to raise with us, and that they would be free to do so,'' he said.