Six world powers will meet early next week in a bid to defuse the nuclear crisis with Iran, while the United States and its allies seek stiffer UN sanctions, US officials said Thursday.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns "will be going to London on Monday" for consultations with his Russian, Chinese, British, French and German counterparts, said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.
|File photo of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km south of Tehran|
The meeting announcement came after the UN nuclear watchdog agency concluded in a report Thursday for its 35-nation board that Iran had not suspended its nuclear fuel enrichment as the UN Security Council demanded.
The United States, France and Britain called for increased sanctions against Iran. Germany said that further consultations were necessary, and Russia and China withheld comment.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution December 23 imposing limited sanctions on Iran and demanding it freeze enrichment, which makes fuel for civilian reactors but can also produce atomic bomb material.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Berlin earlier Thursday that world powers were agreed on the need to refer Iran back to the UN Security Council.
"We reconfirmed that we will use our available channels and the Security Council to achieve that goal and the goal is to get Iran back to negotiations once they suspend their enrichment activities," said Rice after meetings with Russian, German and EU foreign ministers.
"We have the common goal to encourage Iran back to the bargaining table," she said.
Washington and European powers say that Iran is enriching uranium as fuel for nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists the fuel is for electrical generation only.
The council gave IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei 60 days to report on whether Iran had complied. The IAEA board is to meet on March 6, but meanwhile the UN nuclear watchdog agency issued its Iran report to the board on Thursday.
The report said Iran had failed to cooperate on crucial issues and was actually increasing the scale of its fuel processing. The report also raised the possibility of a military dimension to Iran's nuclear fuel work.
Iran has failed to hand over a 15-page document outlining the plan for making the core of nuclear bombs, for instance, it said.
The report also provoked calls from France and Britain for tougher UN Security Council sanctions on Iran "which will lead to the further isolation of Iran internationally," as Britain said.
But Tehran insisted that it would not halt its nuclear work.
"Iran considers that a suspension of uranium (processing) would be contrary to its rights, to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to international rules," said Mohammad Saidi, deputy director of Iran's atomic energy agency.
"Given that, Tehran cannot accept Security Council Resolution 1737 demanding a suspension of uranium enrichment."
At the United Nations, Slovakian Ambassador Peter Burian, security council president for February, said he would sound out the body's 15 members next week on steps toward possible action against Tehran.
US State Department officials would not comment on the potential elements of a new, tougher resolution against Iran, which could meet resistance from Russia and China, both of which have closer commercial relationships with Tehran.
"There are a number of ideas I know that people are circulating around," one US official said privately. "But there are not any sort of formal elements or any agreed-upon sense of the specific language that would be included."
"I don't think anybody is pretending that negotiations about this are easy or quick. But I do think that our general belief is that, yes, in fact, it is possible to have another resolution with some additional measures," he said.