The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has arrived in Iran, her first visit to the Islamic Republic as nuclear talks with world powers continue.

The official IRNA news agency said Catherine Ashton arrived in Tehran on Saturday night to meet with Iranian leaders, including President Hassan Rouhani.

Ashton leads the six-nation group - the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - in talks with Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iranian media say the visit signals the normalization of Iran's relations with Europe after eight years of tension under Rouhani's predecessor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran struck an initial deal with world powers on November 24 to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions. Negotiators hope to reach a final agreement by July 20, when the interim pact is due to expire.

Experts from all the parties have already met to prepare the way for the next high-level talks in Vienna, Austria, on March 17.

Ashton will meet Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, "as well as other senior officials and representatives from leading Civil Society organisations," a brief statement from her office said.

Source: Agencies