UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Six world powers, including China, have agreed to start drawing up new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program in the next few days, diplomatic sources with knowledge of the talks said.
The diplomats said that senior foreign ministry officials from Britain, the United States, France, Russia and Germany had reached agreement with China during a conference call.
"It has been agreed with China to start drawing up sanctions on Iran," an envoy said. "Drawing up of a Security Council resolution is to begin in the next few days."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in New York for a donor conference on Haiti, said the group of six nations "continues to be unified."
"There will be a great deal of further consultation not only among the (six), but other members of the Security Council and other member nations during the next weeks," she added.
The Western powers in the group hope to organize a meeting of the six at the ambassadorial level in New York in the coming days to get the process of drafting a sanctions resolution going, several diplomats said.
The basis for negotiations, diplomats said, will be a U.S. proposal for sanctions that Washington agreed with its three European allies and passed on to Russia and China around a month ago.
Russia, like China, reluctantly backed three previous rounds of UN sanctions against Tehran for refusing to halt enrichment as demanded by five Security Council resolutions. Iran rejects Western charges that its atomic program is aimed at developing bombs and says enrichment is a sovereign right.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is intended only to peacefully generate electricity.
Diplomats say China has been slowly and reluctantly falling in line with the other powers involved in the negotiations on Iran by backing the idea of new UN sanctions against Tehran, though Beijing, like Moscow, wants any new steps to be weak.
They say the four Western powers would like a resolution to be adopted next month, before a month-long UN conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May, but acknowledge that negotiations could drag on at least until June.
"This is a big victory for the United States and the Europeans," said a diplomat. "China has taken great strides."
Moscow, diplomats say, has become increasingly impatient with Iran's rejection of a UN-backed nuclear fuel offer that would have moved Tehran's low-enriched uranium stocks to Russia and France to process it into fuel for an aging research reactor that produces medical isotopes.
Both Russia and China have privately urged Iran to accept the offer as a goodwill gesture, but Western diplomats said Beijing and Moscow did not receive any clear responses from Tehran. That, diplomats say, is one of the reasons China agreed to join negotiations on a new U.N. sanctions resolution.
"China said it was on the same page as Russia," a diplomat said, referring to the conference call.
China and Russia have veto power on the Security Council, as do the United States, Britain and France.