PARIS – World powers agreed Wednesday to send Iran back to the U.N. Security Council for possible punishment, saying the country has given no sign it means to negotiate seriously over its disputed nuclear program.
The United States and other permanent members of the powerful U.N. body said Iran has had long enough to say whether it will meet the world's terms to open bargaining that would give Tehran economic and energy incentives in exchange for giving up suspicious activities.
"We have no choice but to return to the Security Council and continue the process suspended two months ago," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said after talks in Paris with counterparts from the United States, Britain, Russia, China and Germany.
The meeting came on the day of an informal deadline for Iran to respond to an international package of incentives in exchange for suspending nuclear enrichment. Iran's chief negotiator indicated Tuesday that his country was in no hurry to respond.
"The Iranians have given no indication at all that they are prepared to engage seriously on the substance of our proposals," said a statement read by Douste-Blazy.
Any real punishment or coercion at the Security Council is a long way off, but the group said it will seek an initial resolution requiring Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment.
If Iran does not comply, the group said it would then seek harsher action. The group's short statement did not give any specifics, but it cited a section of the world body's charter — Chapter 7, Article 41 — that could open the door to economic or other sanctions and set the stage for possible military force.
Though Russia and China signed on to Wednesday's statement, the two traditional commercial partners of Iran have long stated their opposition to imposing the toughest of sanctions on Tehran.
The group said it could stop the Security Council actions at any time should Iran cooperate. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency has already told Iran it must put uranium enrichment and related disputed activities on hold, and doing so is the condition for opening negotiations on the incentives package presented to Iran last month.
If Iran agrees to the group's terms for negotiations, it would mean the first high-level face-to-face talks between the United States and Iran after more than a quarter century of estrangement.