The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, have agreed to start drawing up new sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program. The move signals that China, which has long been opposed to new sanctions, has finally dropped its opposition.
The decision was made in a conference call Wednesday among senior officials from the six powers - Britain, France, China, Russia, the United States and Germany.
At the United Nations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was co-chairing a pledging conference on Haiti, was asked whether the group unanimously agreed to move on to a new phase of sanctions.
"I think you accurately described the P5+1 position. It has been a unified, consultative group for more than a year now. It continues to be unified, and there will be a great deal of further consultation - not only among the P5+1, but other members of the Security Council and other member nations during the next weeks," she said.
She said that sanctions can be an effective part of negotiation.
"We happen to think that action in the Security Council is part of negotiation and diplomacy, and that, perhaps, can get the attention of the Iranian leadership," she said.
President Barack Obama said this week that he hoped to see a new sanctions resolution - this would be the fourth - in the Security Council in a matter "of weeks."
Those steps could include new sanctions against members of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, as well as measures targeted against Iran's insurance and shipping sectors.
China, which has close trade ties with Iran, has been reluctant to agree to new measures. But White House spokesman Bill Burton said Wednesday that China knows it is not in its interest to have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator will be in Beijing Thursday for talks with officials on his country's nuclear program. The international community fears Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs, not develop its nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes, as Tehran claims.