Foreign ministers from the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany meet in Berlin on Tuesday, Jan. 22, to ratchet up pressure on Teheran for defying international demands that it stop uranium enrichment activities that they fear could be used to make a bomb.
The six world powers, which have been searching for common ground for months, are to discuss and thrash out a third UN sanctions resolution against Iran.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the meeting would show that Iran has not eliminated international concerns.
"I am very confident that we will come to a result that will show Iran once again that our concerns are not eliminated, and the resolve of the international community of states -- including Russia and China -- remains," he said.
Few hopes of breakthrough
But few expect a real breakthrough at the meeting due to lingering differences between Security Council members on the best way to deal with Iran.
Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said it was vital that the international community showed a united front to Tehran.
"My fear is that Moscow and Beijing will express so many reservations that a much-needed sign of a determined common front won't be forthcoming," von Klaeden said in an interview with a German radio station.
Russia and China are reluctant to back new punitive measures against Iran because of their important trade ties with the Islamic Republic. Russia recently stepped up uranium exports for Iran's Busher nuclear power plant which Tehran is building on the Persian Gulf.
US plays down expectations
The US in particular is pushing for a third round of UN sanctions because Washington insists that Tehran has failed to fulfill key demands to halt work on its nuclear program and provide transparency. According to diplomats, the US wants new sanctions against state-run Iranian banks as well as firms that support Tehran's nuclear weapons program.
The US administration's own intelligence on Iran has made it difficult to convince Russia and China that Tehran deserves new sanctions.
A National Intelligence Estimate released in early December reported that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, a conclusion that undermined US President George W. Bush's warnings about the Iran threat.
The US this week played down expectations of a breakthrough at the Berlin summit.
"We don't yet have agreement on the elements or language of a (United Nations) resolution," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday, Jan. 18. "But we're pushing forward on it and we're optimistic that we will eventually be able to get a resolution. We would have wished that we had had one by now but that is multilateral diplomacy."
Steinmeier said the NIE report contained both positive and negative news. In addition to showing that Iran had ended its enrichment program, the report also concluded that the country had been working on a weapons program.
"The question remains: how far along were the Iranians?" Steinmeier said. "For that we need the IAEA in Vienna."
As host of the meeting, Steinmeier is to meet separately with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.
Iran says Berlin meet useless
Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, insists its uranium enrichment is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more oil and gas.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad-Ali Hosseini, on Monday predicted that the Berlin meeting would come to nothing.
The view was echoed by another senior Iranian official, Ali Aghamohammadi, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on a powerful arbitration body.
In an interview with Reuters, Aghamohammadi said the Berlin meeting would not help defuse Iran's nuclear row with the West if the six powers continue to push for a new sanctions resolution on Iran.
"If they can find a way to turn the page, then things should be fine," he said. "If they want to continue their trend to push for another resolution, even a very weak one, I don't think it can solve anything."