LONDON, (Reuters) – Foreign ministers from six world powers convene in London on Friday to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme, with the United States, backed by Britain, suggesting it is time to consider a sanctions resolution against Tehran.
Resistance may come from Russia and China who oppose the sanctions route. Some European countries also say diplomacy must be given more time.
Apart from Germany, the countries meeting in London are veto-wielding United Nations Security Council members.
Four months of talks between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani have failed to yield a promise from Iran to halt atomic work.
A Bush administration official said on Friday ministers would likely agree on the principle of imposing sanctions on Iran but not approve specific language.
“What we would expect to come from this meeting is the political decision to move to the next step of diplomacy, which is a sanctions resolution,” said the official, travelling in Iraq with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and representatives from France, Germany, Russia and China were due to gather for ministerial-level talks from 5:00 pm (1600 GMT). But Rice was delayed in Iraq by a mechanical problem on her plane and was likely to arrive an hour late.
A spokesman for the British foreign office, which said earlier this week that work was under way to start drafting a United Nations resolution on sanctions, said the main aim of the meeting was to reach agreement on where to go next.
“This is an opportunity for all parties to meet face to face to assess where we’ve got to in discussions with Iran and see where we next have to go,” he said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking before he flew to London, said Moscow wanted talks with Iran to continue.
“We will be guided by an earlier agreement among the six that any measures which can be considered should be aimed exclusively at encouraging Iran to sit at the negotiating table,” he said.
Iran again urged the West on Thursday to solve the dispute through talks but repeated it would not stop uranium enrichment. Tehran says the programme is only for power generation but the West suspects it wants to make a nuclear bomb.
The talks are expected to break around 7.00 pm (1800 GMT) to make a statement on how they are progressing. Some ministers will then convene again over dinner, depending on their schedules, the foreign office spokesman said.
The meeting will follow discussions earlier in the day between senior officials from their respective countries.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the foreign ministers would likely ask their political directors to spend the next several days hammering out specific language on sanctions.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Thursday the door to dialogue with Tehran should stay open for now.
In New York, Britain’s U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said he expected the Security Council to discuss Iran next week, including non-military sanctions under Article 41 of the U.N. Charter.