IRAN and world powers have announced new talks on Tehran's nuclear programme will take place later this month.

However, hopes of progress were weakened when an Iranian official said the West's goal in talking was to undermine the Islamic republic.

Iran's Supreme National Security Council announced the meeting, to be held on February 26, in comments to state news agency IRNA.

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A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – who represents the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany – said she hoped to make progress over the programme Iran denies has a military purpose.

However, there were immediate signs from Iran, which holds a presidential election in June, that powerful figures were sceptical.

Comments by Abdollah Haj Sadeghi, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), indicated differences of opinion.

He said: "They will never want real negotiations. Their goal is to inhibit the Islamic revolution."

Mr Haj-Sadeghi's remarks contrasted with those of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who said on Monday he was optimistic.

Western powers say Iran may be close to having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon, though Tehran says it only wants electricity.