Russia and China remained at odds with the United States, Britain and France over a resolution on Iran, demanding that the measure push diplomacy and oversight of Tehran's nuclear program instead of raising the threat of possible future action.
The three Western nations had been hoping that the Security Council would adopt the resolution before foreign ministers of six key nations trying to negotiate with Iran meet in New York on Monday evening. But it was clear after meetings on Friday that council members remain divided on two key issues and bridging the divide will be difficult.
The council agreed to hold an informal meeting on Saturday afternoon to go over members' concerns about the text. US Ambassador John Bolton said he was ready to work around the clock, but other members were less enthusiastic.
Under the proposed draft, the Security Council's demand in late March for Iran to stop enrichment would be made mandatory, and Tehran would be given a short period to comply. If it refuses, the resolution says the council intends to consider "further measures" to ensure compliance.
The sponsors, who believe Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons, want the resolution adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter which can be enforced by sanctions or - if necessary - military action. The draft also includes a declaration that the "proliferation risk" posed by Iran constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
Both China and Russia have said they oppose putting the resolution under Chapter 7 or referring to Iran as a threat to international peace and security.
China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya was asked whether he believed Chapter 7 could open the way to the use of military force against Iran, as happened in Iraq.
"That is the concern, not only of China, but of others," he said.
"We are looking for a diplomatic solution - what is the best language for a diplomatic solution," he said.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, "when people assert that the only way for this resolution to serve its purpose is to put some big statements in it, like Chapter 7, `threats to peace,' etcetera etcetera, - when they assert that this is strengthening the resolution, this is not necessarily the case."
Putting such language in the resolution, he said, "might in fact detract from the strength of this resolution" which must be to support the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, so it can monitor Iran's nuclear program.
"Our entire effort should be to make sure that the IAEA can continue working with Iran, that everyone working in Vienna or in New York should be pursuing this goal of supporting the IAEA in doing the job we all want it to do," Churkin said. "This is making certain that the Iranian nuclear program stays within a peaceful framework."
Bolton said putting the resolution under Chapter 7 "is a standard plain manila formulation that we've used in many other circumstances to make the decisions in the resolution mandatory."
He said discussions were still going on with the Russians, Chinese and others.
The US ambassador said he had told the Russians and Chinese to come up with some creative way to make the resolution mandatory without Chapter 7.
"The hope that our ministers have is that at their discussion on Monday evening is that they can look ahead, they can talk about the broader policy issues and avoid getting caught up in drafting this resolution," Bolton said.