BRUSSELS, Belgium – Talks between Iran and European nations appeared to make little progress Monday in ending the diplomatic standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.
"To be frank, we didn't detect anything new in their approach," said John Sawers, a senior British official at the talks with Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, Javad Vaedi. The meeting, which included diplomats from Britain, France and Germany, was not a formal negotiating session.
Instead, European Union foreign ministers planned to jointly call on Iran again to end all nuclear enrichment-related activities, warning they otherwise would seek to take the case to the U.N. Security Council, diplomats said.
Vaedi was a little more upbeat however upon leaving the meeting. "Now we can continue opening the chance for talks," he said.
The issue will be picked again up again in London late Monday, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was joining foreign ministers from the four other permanent U.N. Security Council members -- Britain, France, Russia and China -- to try to break the diplomatic deadlock over Iran's nuclear program. Germany also will take part.
"We will now be reporting to our ministers who will discuss this matter," Sawers said.
The talks came at the start of a pivotal week to try to resolve the crisis over Tehran's nuclear activities.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the meeting indicated Iran, which recently restarted nuclear work, had not abandoned efforts to find a diplomatic solution.
"The fact that Iran asked for these discussions this morning -- they are not negotiations -- illustrates the fact that Iran is ... concerned about its international position," Straw said.
The European Union has led negotiations meant to ease international concerns that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Tehran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.
An EU draft statement said recent Iranian actions "run counter to International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions and ... are a rejection of the efforts to explore whether a basis can be agreed for resuming negotiations."
In light of this, it said, the ministers could seek to take Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, but added that the "issue can still be solved by negotiations." It said this would "require a cooperative and transparent approach on the part of the Iranian government."
The Russian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said China might join Moscow's proposed program to enrich uranium for Iran.
The EU said it was still hopeful of finding a diplomatic solution. The 35-nation board of the IAEA meets Thursday at the U.N. agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss possible Security Council referral.
Britain, France and Germany, representing the 25-nation bloc, and the United States have called for referring Iran to the Security Council, a move that could lead to sanctions. China and Russia remain unconvinced.
Europe has led negotiations meant to ease international concerns that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Tehran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.
"We still remain committed to a diplomatic solution," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the EU would maintain its tough stance against Iran's desire to fully restart its program. Earlier this month, Iran broke U.N. seals at a uranium enrichment plant and said it would resume nuclear fuel research after a two-year freeze.
The Iranians "have taken decisions that were absolutely incompatible with the commitments that they have made," Solana told reporters.
The EU said Russia's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran could be the way forward.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Moscow was considering the possibility of China also taking part in a program to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said talks on the Iranian nuclear issue should focus on persuading Iran to resume an enrichment moratorium, the Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies reported.
The EU and Washington have backed the Russian proposal. Iran's top nuclear negotiator visited Moscow last week to discuss the proposal and said it needs more work.
The Russian proposal could provide more oversight and ease fears that Tehran is using its pursuit of atomic power as a front for a nuclear weapons program.
The European powers are wary of allowing Iran to carry out nuclear fuel production on its own territory. Enriched uranium can be used as both fuel for nuclear power and in the production of weapons, depending on how it is processed.