The five permanent members of the UN Security Council agreed Friday to move toward a third set of sanctions if Iran fails to answer key questions on its nuclear program, the British Foreign Office said.
The Foreign Office said diplomats from the US, Russia, China, Britain and France agreed, along with Germany, to come up with a new sanctions resolution with the aim of voting on it if November reports by the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency do not show improved Iranian cooperation.
Russia and China did not comment, and the agreement seemed at odds with weeks of public opposition, primarily by the Kremlin, to new sanctions against Iran.
Still, a senior diplomat from one of the six nations meeting in London suggested Russia's statements on the issue were not necessarily a reflection of its "determination, along with the other five (countries) to prevent an Iran armed with nuclear weapons." He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.
A senior Security Council diplomat at UN headquarters in New York said the five permanent members have not yet agreed on sanctions to be included in the new resolution. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions are continuing.
Friday's agreement seemed to reflect earlier consensus among the six about the possibility of new sanctions.
Iran has repeatedly said it would not freeze enrichment and IAEA officials have privately said Teheran is expanding the program.
The diplomats who met in London on Friday will hold talks again on Nov. 19 to assess the pending reports, a Foreign Office spokesman said.
He said the Security Council members and Germany had agreed to "finalize a text for a third UN Security Council Sanctions resolution with the intention of bringing it to a vote in the UN Security Council unless the November reports of Dr. Solana and Dr. ElBaradei show a positive outcome of the efforts."
US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns had urged China and Russia to support harsher UN sanctions, saying the two nations were key to a diplomatic solution to the standoff.
"The US believes very strongly there is a need to accelerate the diplomacy, to strengthen the sanctions," Burns told The Associated Press.
"We want a diplomatic solution, we do not want to give up on diplomacy, but we need the help of the P5 (permanent Security Council member) countries to do that, particularly the support of Russia and China."
Britain and France have backed the US call for a resolution on a third round of UN Security Council sanctions if Iran continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment.
Burns said the US believes China has increased trade with Iran in the last six months, sending the wrong signal about the international community's attitude toward the nuclear program.
Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Friday in Teheran that talks between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog were making progress and he warned the US to avoid resorting to threats.
Burns said participants at Friday's meeting in London did not discuss an offer from Saudi officials to create a Middle East consortium of users of enriched uranium.
The proposal by the Arab nations around the Persian Gulf is to build a uranium enrichment plant in a neutral country to supply the region's states, including Iran, with reactor fuel for nuclear energy programs.
Burns said Washington would look carefully at the offer, but stressed a similar proposal from Russia - to host Iran's uranium enrichment facilities on its territory to allay Western concerns about monitoring - had been ignored.