Diplomats Will Try to Break Iran Impasse

Top diplomats from the five veto-wielding nations on the U.N. Security Council and Germany will meet in New York next week to try to break an impasse over how to deal with Iran's suspect nuclear program, officials said Thursday.

The meeting on Monday would bring together the most senior foreign affairs officials from the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, as well as Germany, since a London gathering on Jan. 30, when their foreign ministers agreed to refer Iran to the Security Council over concerns it is trying to develop atomic weapons.

Plans for the high-level negotiations underscored the urgency that Britain, France and the United States feel about the Iran issue, and reflected just how deep the divisions are between those three and China and Russia, which want only mild Security Council action on Iran. The two insist that the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, play the main role.

The diplomats will "try to elaborate a clear strategy on what to do next on the Iranian nuclear issue," Russia's deputy U.N. Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov told The Associated Press. "We need to have an agreed way ahead within the IAEA, in the Security Council. You see how difficult discussions are in the Security Council."

Dolgov said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak would attend for Russia. Two U.S. officials said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will attend for the Americans. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks have not been officially announced.

"Time is running out," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said Thursday. "I am confident that we can reach an agreement, I am not saying that there will be consensus, but I am confident."

The U.N. ambassadors from the five veto-wielding members of the council last met on Wednesday but announced no major progress in their dispute over what the council should do.

Britain, France and the United States want a statement that would call on Iran to abandon uranium enrichment and comply with other demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Uranium enrichment can be used either in the generation of electricity or to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is to produce nuclear energy, but the IAEA has raised concerns that Tehran might be seeking nuclear arms.

Russia and China, which are allies of Iran, only want a statement stressing the central role the IAEA has on the Iran issue. The two nations are not as skeptical of Tehran's intentions and believe that tough council action could spark an Iranian withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expulsion of inspectors from the IAEA.

They also fear a chain reaction of council action that could lead to tougher measures later on, such as sanctions.

All 15 members of the Security Council planned a second round of informal consultations away from the council chamber on Thursday afternoon to discuss proposals that had been circulated Tuesday.

Despite the disputes, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said he hoped for a deal by sometime next week that could lead to council action.

"We are eager to see a clear statement by the council at the earliest date," he told reporters. "By this time next week I will be disappointed if we have not got something on the table of the council."