Iran could face a new round of sanctions from the United Nations now that Russia and the United States have agreed a draft resolution on its nuclear activities.
The deal, announced today by Britain's UN ambassador, John Sawers, is aimed at reinforcing three earlier rounds of sanctions against Iran and making it clear that the international community still wants it to comply.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the resolution will be introduced in the Security Council later on September 26. "We'll be presenting a short resolution for consultation today that reaffirms existing resolutions that are on the UN books, that reaffirms the unity" of the six countries, Miliband said.
He said "extensive discussions" were still going on over future steps, but characterized the resolution as a "significant offer." "We also look forward to full engagement by the government of Iran with the very significant offer that is on the table to them," Miliband said. "You will have seen that the IAEA inspectors have failed to get the cooperation that's necessary from the government of Iran. And so we will be taking the consequent next steps in our discussions bilaterally and multilaterally on the diplomatic track."
The United States, Britain, and France have been calling for a new round of sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, which is a precondition to beginning talks.
Russia and China have opposed the idea of new sanctions.
Today's agreement was forged by the so-called P5-plus-1 group: the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Russia, China, France, Britain, and the United States -- plus Germany.
Reports say it appears to be a compromise that carries no new sanctions but does contain tough wording for Iran that the existing resolutions are still legally binding.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the Security Council cannot overlook Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment or answer questions about its nuclear work from UN inspectors.
She said the UN needed to show Iran "that there are negative consequences for not answering the demands of the international community."
A report earlier this month from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the agency has been unable to determine whether Iran has ever used its nuclear technology in a weapons program.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating nuclear energy, but the West believes it is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said on September 25 that Tehran needs the ability to produce nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on other nations to supply enriched uranium to the Islamic regime's planned reactors.
Earlier in the week, on the UN General Assembly's opening day, he vowed to resist "bullying" by other countries.