BRUSSELS  - Six major world powers and Iran are to hold fresh talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme, the EU has said. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday sent Iran an offer to restart key diplomatic talks between global powers and Tehran.

“On behalf of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the UK, the United States of America, I have offered to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear issue,” Ashton said in a statement. A time and venue now need to be agreed, she added.

In her letter dated Tuesday to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Ashton said: “Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, while respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).”

The prospect of a resumption of the long-stalled talks between Tehran and the six world powers comes amid heightened tension between Israel and Iran.

Ashton represents the permanent five UN Security Council members, plus Germany, in the talks with Iran which stalled just over a year ago. The last round of talks collapsed in Turkey in January 2011 over what Western diplomats said was Iran’s insistence on “preconditions”.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge denied by Tehran which insists its atomic programme is for purely peaceful purposes.

“We hope that Iran will now enter into a sustained process of constructive dialogue which will deliver real progress in resolving the international community’s long-standing concerns on its nuclear programme,” Ashton said in her statement.

In a February 14 letter to Ashton, Jalili had said Tehran was ready to resume the deadlocked negotiations at the “earliest” opportunity as long as the powers respected its right to peaceful atomic energy.

Jalili’s letter was a long-belated response to one from Ashton in October, stating a solution was possible only if the talks focused on addressing Western concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last month noted some positive signs in Tehran’s February note, saying it seemed to mark an acknowledgement from Tehran that the talks begin with a discussion of its nuclear programme. Earlier, Tehran’s mission to the IAEA in Vienna said Tuesday Iran was ready to give the UN nuclear agency access to its Parchin military base once agreement was reached on how to proceed on clarifying all issues.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in November that it suspected Iran had carried out high-explosives tests in a large metal container at Parchin near Tehran, relevant to developing nuclear weapons.

“Considering the fact that it is a military site, granting access is a time-consuming process and cannot be permitted repeatedly,” the Iranian embassy to the IAEA in Vienna said in a statement.

It said it had requested that the IAEA “combine all related issues ... and then once more, access would be granted” and that the “process could be obviously started” once there is agreement on how to resolve all issues.

It also said that in talks in Vienna in between two high-level watchdog visits this year to Iran, it had been agreed that the agency’s request to visit Parchin would be “postponed” until after this week’s IAEA board of governors meeting.

The IAEA has however made no mention of any such agreement, saying after the second recent visit on February 22 that it had asked during both trips for access to Parchin but that Iran “did not grant permission.”

In a report circulated to IAEA members two days later, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said that there were “major differences” with Iran over how to proceed in the agency’s enquiry into the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

Iran says that the IAEA already visited the sprawling Parchin base in 2005, but inspectors did not examine the area where the explosives chamber was believed to be.