World powers head into a second day of talks in Moscow on Wednesday, seeking a common strategy on Iran's nuclear ambitions. The search for a diplomatic solution is on the top of the agenda.
Leading world powers question Iran's self-proclaimed right to nuclear energy
Senior diplomats from Germany and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Britain, China, Russia and France -- come together in Moscow again on Wednesday, hoping to iron out their differences over how to impose controls on Iran's nuclear program. Canada and Italy will also join the talks.
The countries fear Iran could use a nuclear energy program to mask a nuclear weapons drive, though Tehran says its program is strictly for producing nuclear energy.
The representatives met for a working dinner at a Russian foreign ministry residence late Tuesday. Russian officials said the meeting was private and offered no details. But Interfax news agency quoted a source close to the talks as saying that "no breakthrough decisions were made during the meeting."
The need for a diplomatic solution
In Washington, State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey said the US representative, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, discussed "the need for some form of sanctions" on Iran at the meeting.
Top diplomats already met in Berlin last month to discuss Iran
"Certainly this is an issue where there will be continued discussion," Casey said. Asked if this meant no agreement was reached, he said the meeting was not intended "to reach decisions on a specific course of action."
Casey said Burns and representatives of the other five countries spoke for more than three hours over dinner and agreed that Iran had "crossed the line" laid out by the international community.
"Everyone agreed on the need to find the diplomatic means to get Iran back into compliance with its international obligations and they also agreed on the need for further discussions of how to do that in the UN Security Council," Casey said.
Iran as a nuclear military power "unacceptable"
Washington made clear ahead of the Moscow meeting that it would continue to seek early and muscular action by the UN Security Council. On Tuesday, US President George W. Bush said he would not rule out a military strike to halt the program.
"All options are on the table" concerning Iran, Bush told reporters at the White House. However, he said a diplomatic solution was the goal. "And we're working hard to do so."
This capsule of uranium hexaflouride gas can be used to produce nuclear material
Russia has repeated its position that neither sanctions nor military force would resolve the Iran nuclear impasse.
French President Jacques Chirac told Egyptian daily Al-Ahram Wednesday that it was "unacceptable" for Iran to have nuclear weapons. But he left the door open to resumed discussions with Tehran.
The Iranian leaders "must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclear Iran is unacceptable," Chirac said in an interview published as he was due to arrive in Egypt on a two-day visit.
Iran continues its stance
In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that Iran's army was like a "meteorite" that would destroy any attacking force.
"It will cut off the hand of any aggressor and leave the enemy covered in shame," Ahmadinejad said Tuesday.
The Moscow talks come after Ahmadinejad last week announced that the Islamic state had successfully enriched a small amount of uranium for use as fuel for a nuclear power station.