The Bush administration says it is hopeful the veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council can reach agreement Thursday on elements of a new sanctions resolution against Iran. Senior diplomats of the five Security Council member countries and Germany had what U.S. officials describe as a productive meeting on the issue Monday in London. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The initial Security Council resolution approved December 23, placing sanctions on Iran for failing to stop uranium enrichment, required many weeks of painstaking negotiations.
But officials here are reporting rapid progress on a follow-up measure that would "incrementally" tighten the sanctions regime because of Iran's continued failure to comply.
Briefing reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. point-man for Iran diplomacy, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Nicolas Burns, reported that Monday's London meeting of the so-called P Five Plus One was one of the best on the nuclear issue in the last two years.
McCormack said Burns and the other political directors of the six-nation grouping would confer again by telephone Thursday, at which point they expect to agree on the "elements" of a new resolution.
"Coming out of this meeting, they have agreed on the fact that they will go forward with a U.N. sanctions resolution," he said. "They have also reaffirmed their commitment to make it clear to the Iranian government that the pathway to negotiation is also open to them."
McCormack would not be specific about the contents of a new resolution, but said it would include new sanctions from a menu of additional penalties previously discussed by the major powers.
The initial resolution barred trade with Iran of items that could advance its nuclear and missile programs and also imposed financial sanctions against senior Iranian figures associated with those programs.
McCormack said that measure was less punitive than the Bush administration had hoped, but has proven to be more effective than U.S. officials expected - leading to a decline in international investment in Iran, and open debate there over the wisdom of continued defiance of the world community.
"This last resolution that was passed 15 to zero has knocked them off balance, I think," he said. "You have seen a debate erupt in Iran that you had not previously seen. And there is a real discussion in Iran right now about whether the opportunity costs of continuing down their current pathway are really worth it."
Though Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday there is no brake or reverse gear on his country's nuclear efforts, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told TV interviewers Iran needs to find the "stop button" for its program.
Rice reiterated she is ready to meet her Iranian counterpart for wide-ranging political talks, which would be the first in nearly three decades, at any time Iran suspends enrichment and related activities.
Last year, the P Five plus One offered Iran an array of incentives, including help for a civilian nuclear program, if it stopped enrichment and other activity believed to be weapons-related.
Iran insists its program is entirely peaceful, and that it has a right to pursue enrichment and other aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle.