Iran ‘agrees’ to talks over secret nuclear programme

Six world powers have accepted an Iranian offer for talks on its disputed nuclear programme, the European Union’s top diplomat said yesterday.

The announcement by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton came shortly after Russia called for a resumption of face-to-face dialogue after almost a year, saying an Iranian letter last month showed it was now ready for serious negotiations.

Lady Ashton, who represents the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany in dealings with Iran, said the date and venue for the talks would now have to be agreed.

Iran said yesterday it would let UN nuclear inspectors visit the Parchin military facility, where they have been repeatedly refused access, to check intelligence suggesting explosives tests relevant to atom bombs has been conducted there.

With Israel threatening military action, the talks could provide some respite in a crisis which has driven up oil prices and threatened to suck the United States into its third major war in a decade.