Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran is to open a new round of discussions with Germany and the five members of the UN Security Council over its controversial nuclear programme.

"We have agreed that we will start the talks on 18 February at the UN building in Vienna," announced European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Friday, following talks with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich Security Conference.

The seven parties will attempt to reach a deal to scale back Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for the easing of western trade sanctions, which have damaged Iran's oil-dependent economy.

"It's a good change of venue to the UN office (in Vienna). We are looking forward to seeing you in Iran soon," Zarif said.

On 24 November 2013, the two sides agreed to a rolling six-month deal, under which Iran would suspend higher level uranium enrichment in return for the easing of some sanctions.

As part of the deal, Iran also has to destroy existing stockpiles of higher level enriched uranium, dismantle some of the infrastructure necessary to make it, and allow independent inspectors greater access.

Iran claims that its nuclear programme is for energy purposes, while in the west it is believed in some quarters that it is being used to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week that he was seeking a new deal so Iran could develop its battered economy without the hindrance of sanctions.

In an Iranian state TV interview, Zarif said that Iran was not buckling in the face of sanctions, and was coming to the negotiating table to show that its nuclear programme had always been peaceful and "in order to remove a source of concern for our region and the international community".

The five permanent members of the UN security Council are the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France.