Germany, France and Britain sought talks with Iran on the sidelines of the UN summit as Washington signaled it needed more time to enlist support for possible UN sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.
Europeans want Iran to shut down its plant without Council action
European diplomatic sources said that the so-called EU-3 -- France, Germany and Britain -- were seeking to arrange a meeting Thursday to discuss Tehran's suspected weapons-related nuclear activities.
If confirmed, the meeting might take place at foreign minister level, the sources said. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is due in New York Thursday.
"France is open to dialogue and a contact is possible if the Iranians want it," said a French diplomat on condition of anonymity, adding there was no confirmation at this stage.
Another European diplomat said he was hopeful the meeting would take place.
The necessity of such a meeting took on new urgency after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported as telling Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan that Iran was willing to "transfer nuclear know-how" to other Islamic countries.
"The Islamic Republic never seeks weapons of mass destruction and with respect to the needs of Islamic countries, we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries," the official Iranian news agency. IRNA, quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. Observers say the offer is an attempt to strengthen backing for Iran's stance.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin "strongly" called for Iran to keep its nuclear non-proliferation promises or face action before the Security Council.
As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran insists it is allowed to make nuclear fuel. President Ahmadinejad took a swipe at UN members who felt their wealth and power gave them "extended rights" not accorded to other countries.
Rice: May n ot have votes
As Washington lobbied China, India, Russia and other countries to back referral of Iran to the UN Security Council for resuming sensitive nuclear activities, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled Washington may not have the votes at a key meeting next week.
Rice was cautious on prospects for seeking UN action against the Iranians when the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, meets in Vienna on Monday.
"If we get a referral (of Iran) on Sept. 19, that will be good, but I think the issue of a referral is something that we'll be working for a while," she said.
"I'm not so concerned about exactly when it happens because I don't think this matter is so urgent that it has to be on Sept. 19," she said. "This is more about a political message to Iran right now than anything else."
Europea n s support Cou n cil actio n
Foreign ministers from Germany, France and Britain meet with an Iranian delegation
The Americans have tried to step up pressure on Iran since August when Tehran broke off talks with Britain, Germany and France and resumed work on uranium conversion that could herald efforts to build a bomb.
Rice said she saw no resistance from the Europeans to taking the issue to the UN Security Council.
Iranians rejected a package of economic and security incentives offered by the Europeans in exchange for the Islamic Republic renouncing its nuclear arms ambitions.
"I still think that there is quite a bit of room and scope to put enough pressure on Iran diplomatically to at least constrain Iranian activities significantly," Rice said.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has urged the United States to give Iran one last chance to halt suspected weapons-related nuclear activities, diplomats in Vienna said Wednesday.