WASHINGTON - The United States and Britain
said major powers agreed on Wednesday to consider more U.N.
sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to freeze its
nuclear activities, but Russia said there was no firm deal.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said the six powers had
agreed in a conference call that "while informal contact
between (EU foreign policy chief Javier) Solana and (Iran's
chief nuclear negotiator Saeed) Jalili will continue, we have
no choice but to pursue further sanctions against Iran."
U.S. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said after
the conference call: "The P5+1 (major powers) are discussing
next steps in the U.N. Security Council and beginning to
consider possible outlines of another sanctions resolution."
But at the United Nations, Russia's ambassador Vitaly
Churkin said there was no definite agreement among the six
powers for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran
He told reporters some of the six powers trying to persuade
Iran to freeze nuclear enrichment had raised the idea of more
sanctions, but added: "There have been no firm agreements or
understandings or any kind of concerted work in this regard."
The call came after Iran gave a noncommittal, one-page
letter to major powers on Tuesday containing no reply to an
offer by Russia, China, the United States, Germany, Britain and
France to refrain from seeking more U.N. penalties if Iran
freezes expansion of its nuclear work.
Iran promised a "clear response" at an unspecified date.
MONTHS OF NEGOTIATIONS
While threatening more U.N. sanctions, the United States
conceded it could take months to get them through, as happened
in the past three rounds of sanctions negotiations, because of
Chinese and Russian resistance to the move.
"I am not going to guess how long this will take and where
it may ultimately lead," Gallegos said when pressed whether
sanctions could be agreed on before the end of the Bush
administration's term in January 2009.
A European Union diplomat said there would not be immediate
sanctions and dialogue should continue with the Iranians. "It's
not for tomorrow," said the diplomat.
Churkin also said Moscow had not set a deadline for Iran to
respond to the "freeze for freeze" offer, and that ministers
from the six powers would meet in September to discuss Iran.
He made clear Russia was in no hurry to raise the issue of
more sanctions. "I haven't seen any pushes here," he said.
Indonesia's U.N. ambassador, Marty Natalegawa, who
represents the only country on the 15-nation Security Council
that did not vote for the third round of sanctions in March,
said he saw no point in the council discussing Iran now.
Rather, the six should continue their dialogue with Tehran,
The major powers say they fear Tehran wants to build an
atomic bomb. Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer,
insists it is only seeking to master nuclear technology to
"We are very disappointed that Iran has failed yet again to
give ... a clear answer to the P5+1 generous incentives
package. The letter we received yesterday appears to be a
stalling tactic," Gallegos said.
"ENGAGEMENT OR ISOLATION"
British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said his
government was disappointed by Iran's response.
"Iran has a clear choice: engagement or isolation. We
regret that Iran's leaders appear to have chosen isolation. ...
If Iran continues to refuse to come to the negotiating table,
the international pressure on Iran will only grow," he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Iran's
reply was insufficient, and called for unity among the six
powers to ensure that pressure on Iran through talks and the
U.N. Security Council is successful.
France warned of more punitive action but urged dialogue.
"The path of dialogue remains open, but in absence of a
clear response, Iran is choosing to expose itself to new
sanctions," said France's Foreign Ministry in a statement."
The major powers have said formal talks on the incentives
could only start once Iran suspends uranium enrichment, the
part of the program that most worries the West because it can
have military use.
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor
urged the West to impose strong sanctions against Iran, which
he said was trying to buy time by giving "evasive" replies to
the offer by world powers.
"Every day that the centrifuges continue to spin brings
Iran closer to a nuclear weapons capability and threatens the
stability and security of the region and the world," he told
"In these circumstances, the international community should
immediately apply additional robust sanctions," he added.