Germany said Tuesday that a number of questions must be resolved before major powers agree on a draft UN Security Council resolution on Iran's nuclear program.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier says it will take time for the West to agree on Iran
After meeting with counterparts from the five permanent Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- in New York, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said many questions needed to be answered before a draft UN resolution on Iran could be hammered out.
"We need to make sure we don't start something we cannot stop and which could get out of control afterwards," Steinmeier said on Tuesday in an interview with German public television station ZDF.
Steinmeier says there are unanswered questions when it comes to Iran
He said "five or six questions are still open" before a draft resolution could be concluded calling for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment.
ZDF said Steinmeier had estimated it could take two weeks before they resolved their differences, but didn't provide any details from the German foreign minister supporting that timeframe. Russia and China have resisted the draft resolution.
"Important and difficult meeting"
Earlier Britain's new Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, making her debut on the international scene, called the session an "important and difficult meeting."
"Everyone believed Iran must give up its nuclear enrichment program," Beckett told reporters. "It's the way to achieve that we have to agree (on)."
Participants said the ministers, who met for two hours on Monday without aides before going into dinner, agreed on the need to keep Iran from using its civilian nuclear program to develop atomic bombs.
But a senior US official reported no progress in melting Russian and Chinese resistance to American calls for tough action under chapter seven of the UN charter, which would authorize sanctions or the use of force.
"There is not yet agreement on the tactics and what's most pronounced is that there is no agreement yet that this should be a chapter seven resolution," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Based on tonight's meeting, I would not expect a resolution to be voted on and adopted this week."
Further talks needed
Russian news agencies quoted Moscow's top envoy, Sergei Lavrov, as calling for further negotiations, including more direct talks between major powers and Iran.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, left with Condoleezza Rice
"There was general agreement on the need to create conditions for resuming direct negotiations on Iran's nuclear program," Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as telling Russian reporters in New York.
France's chief diplomat Philippe Douste-Blazy said the ministers discussed "incentives and dissuasive measures according to the Iranian response" in the confrontation.
Among the incentives raised by the French minister were cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, increased commercial and technological ties and security guarantees that the United States has refused to provide.
US Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice had earlier Monday billed the talks as "a time for the international community to come together and say with very great clarity it's time for Iran to accede to the demands of the international community."
US unimpressed by Ahmadinejad's letter
The ministers also discussed the letter made public Monday from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offering to seek ways to ease tensions with the United States.
US officials said the 18-page rambling letter was more a philosophical treatise than a political overture and did not change Washington's position in the nuclear dispute.
The US says Ahmadinejad's letter contains nothing new
"There is nothing in this letter that in any way addresses any of the issues really that are on the table in the international community," Rice told the editorial board of the Associated Press news agency Monday.
"It is most assuredly not a proposal," she said, according to a State Department transcript. "There is nothing in here that would suggest that we're on any different course than we were before we got the letter."