Iran's foreign minister has said that his country was making progress to end the deadlock with six world powers over Tehran's nuclear programme.

"The two sides have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current stalemate," Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying on Monday by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop the means to build atomic bombs, but Iran insists that the programme is only for civilian nuclear energy.

Iran and the six powers - the United States, Russia, France China, Great Britain and Germany - expressed readiness to revive efforts to find a negotiated solution to the decade-old dispute, to head off the risk of a shattering new war in the Middle East.

Salehi said he did not know when the next round of talks would be held, according to ISNA.

The six powers said last week that they hoped soon to agree with Iran to hold a new round of nuclear negotiations.

Progress made

The six powers want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment programme and cooperate fully with UN nuclear inspectors.

Iran wants the West to lift punitive sanctions wreaking serious damage to its economy.

Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal has threatened to bomb Iran if diplomacy and economic sanctions, intended to get Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment, proved futile.

Salehi spoke a few days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran both said progress was made in talks last Thursday on resuming a long-stalled IAEA investigation in the Islamic Republic.

The UN watchdog said it expected to finalise an agreement on how the inquiry should be conducted in a meeting set for January 16.

The IAEA-Iran talks are separate but closely linked to the broader political negotiations between Tehran and the powers.

Source: Agencies