Iran has failed to comply with a UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment, UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in a report Friday that opens the door to possible international sanctions.
Worried about Iran's nuclear program, Western-led powers are considering a UN Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can authorize sanctions or even the use of force.
"We will now be asking the Security Council to increase the pressure on Iran, so that the international community can be assured that its nuclear program is not a threat to peace and security," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report that Iran had not met demands to freeze uranium enrichment, American, British and French diplomats said they expected to present a text in the Security Council next week.
"After more than three years of agency efforts to seek clarity about all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern," the IAEA report said. "Any progress in that regard requires full transparency and active cooperation by Iran."
Steinmeier called for "international unity"
Germany committed to peaceful solution
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for the international community to close ranks in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program and push for a peaceful solution.
Steinmeier said Germany would be prepared to restart negotiations with Iran, but only if Teheran produced a solid basis for negotiations but remained cautious, adding "until now there have not been any signals of compromise."
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy also called for Iranian "gestures that will re-establish confidence about the goals of their nuclear program."
Iran says its program is part of a peaceful civilian nuclear energy drive. The United States and Europe fear, however, that it is hiding secret atomic weapons development.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that Iran was being denied its right to atomic energy and issued another veiled threat to cut off ties with the UN's nuclear watchdog.
"We still want to work within the framework of the agency and we are committed to its regulations," Ahmadinejad told the official Iranian IRNA agency. "But if these regulations that guarantee our rights are used against us, we will totally change our way of dealing with the organizations."
Ahmadinejad said Iran would offer a timetable to work with the IAEA
Iran wants IAEA, not Security Council, to organize inspections
Iran has, however, offered to provide a timetable for cooperation with UN nuclear inspectors if the UN nuclear agency, rather than the Security Council, oversees Iranian compliance, according to the UN agency.
"Iran will provide a timetable within the next three weeks" if "the Iran nuclear dossier will remain, in full, in the framework of the IAEA and under its safeguards," according to Friday's IAEA report.
A Chapter 7 resolution, under which efforts to enact sanctions would be taken, is invoked to take: "Action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression." Several Security Council resolutions against Iraq were taken under Chapter 7, before the March 2003 US-led invasion.
The resolutions are binding on all UN member states, but before action can be taken, Chapter 7 says, the council can first "call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable."
Members of the Security Council still favor diplomacy in dealing with Iran
Russian, Chinese veto threat holds sanctions in check
Diplomats at the United Nations said the upcoming resolution would not contain a threat of sanctions against Iran, which are strenuously opposed by Russia and China, two Security Council members with veto powers.
"We will study this report very carefully with the aim of agreeing a position and possible future steps to resolve the issues surrounding the Iranian nuclear problem," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told Interfax, saying any further comments at this point would be premature.
UN diplomats made clear that the new resolution would only be a first step that would be followed by another resolution mandating sanctions.
Under the charter, when the Security Council has noted the "failure to comply with such provisional measures" then it should move on to more serious measures.
Article 41 of the chapter allows for sanctions, including economic and transport measures or the severance of diplomatic relations.
If the council decides that measures under Article 41 have failed, then Article 42 states "it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security."