European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of a UN meeting this month to discuss stalled nuclear negotiations.

Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, said yesterday the Foreign Ministry would take over talks with world powers on Iran's contested nuclear programme.

It appears to be an apparent move to smooth the diplomatic process after years of control by conservative hardliners.

Ms Ashton leads talks with Iran over its nuclear programme on behalf of the United States, China, Russia, Britain, Germany and France.

The six powers suspect Iran hopes to achieve the capability to make bombs via its nuclear programme.

Tehran says it needs nuclear power for electricity generation and medical research.