Top officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US wrapped up talks on the Iranian nuclear crisis but failed to agree on a clear strategy to coax Tehran into foregoing nuclear arms.
UN veto powers and Germany tried to find a solution before Security Council action
Participants, however, agreed to continue their discussions, including the issue of a Franco-British statement before the UN Security Council calling on Iran to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency's demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.
"The talks were difficult", largely because of Russian and Chinese objections to the firm stance advocated by the Western powers, said a Western diplomat who asked not to be named.
The meeting, at Britain's UN mission, brought together US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak and foreign ministry political directors John Sawers of Britain, Stanislas de Laboulaye of France, Zhang Yan of China and Michael Schäfer, the political director at the German foreign ministry, officials said.
Participants spoke of common ground on the goal of preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons but the officials representing the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council plus Germany did not produce concrete plans to deal with Iran's nuclear defiance.
The meeting had been billed as an attempt by the six powers to map out a long-term strategy to deal with Tehran.
"We made some progress in looking at the text of the presidential statement that is before the Security Council," Burns told reporters. "It's clear from today's meeting that there has to be some more meetings up here in New York."
"We are on the road towards an agreement," he added. "It may take a little bit of time. But it's going to be be worth the time because when we do achieve a statement, it will be yet another clear unified message by the international community."
Hopes for a deal
The Security Council was to resume talks on the revised Franco-British draft Tuesday amid hopes by Western members that a deal could be sealed later in the week.
"There was a lot of common ground between us," Sawers said. "We share the objective vis-à-vis Iran and its nuclear program. It's essential that Iran takes the steps required in order to start the process of rebuilding confidence in its nuclear intentions."
But Sawers denied reports from Vienna that Britain had outlined a long-term strategy that would include an offer to resume talks on European economic incentives in exchange for Iran renouncing nuclear weapons capabilities.
"The British government has not made such a proposal," he told reporters.
The talks between the so-called EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- and Iran foundered when Iran started nuclear fuel work last August.
IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei
The IAEA has been investigating Iran since February 2003 on US charges that Tehran is using its civilian nuclear power program to hide an atomic weapons program.
Schäfer however reiterated that "the Europeans have declared their readiness to go back into negotiations if Iran freezes its activities and that means all enrichment-related activities, including what they call the R and D (research and development) project which de facto is a pilot project in enrichment."
"We have not discussed specifics of resolutions, we have discussed concepts, how to go forward," he added.
Talks were "businesslike"
Kisliayk described Monday's talks on all aspects of the crisis as "businesslike" and said more discussions would follow.
Tehran rejects Western charges that it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and insists it has a right as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct uranium enrichment.
Western powers see adoption of the Franco-British non-binding statement as the first step in a graduated response from the Security Council that could ultimately lead to sanctions against Tehran if it refuses to cooperate.
But Russia and China, which have close economic and energy ties with Tehran, are cool to sanctions and insist on the IAEA retaining the lead role in handling the issue.