Diplomats from the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany failed on Saturday to settle all their differences over a second UN sanctions resolution against Iran but remain committed to passing one soon, the United States said.
"There is still some work to be done on a few outstanding issues, but all parties remain committed to a second resolution in the near future," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in a statement issued after the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany held a conference call to discuss a new UN Security Council resolution on Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
Cooper went on to say that the discussions would now move to New York, where the United Nations permanent representatives [ambassadors] would take up work on the issue.
Earlier Saturday, diplomats from the six powerful countries hammered out language for new sanctions on Teheran.
Speaking in Washington on Friday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United Nations Security Council would likely use the draft language to begin work on a new resolution this week.
"The guts of the resolution - that is what is being worked on now," McCormack said of the conversations that were under way among the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany through a series of conference calls.
An Israeli government source told The Jerusalem Post
on Saturday evening that it supported these efforts.
In Washington, McCormack said Iran's "continued defiance of the requirements of the international system is going to be met by increased pressure in the form of this resolution."
The six countries indicated they want to move quickly to strengthen sanctions following last week's report by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is expanding enrichment.
In related developments, a senior US official who oversees efforts to clamp down financially on Iran was slated Sunday to hold talks with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel Radio reported.
The meeting between Stuart Levey, the US Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, and Livni is the latest in Israeli and US coordination on how to intensify sanctions against Iran in an effort to get it to abandon its nuclear program.
In addition to Livni, Levey will meet with senior officials in the Mossad secret service agency, the National Security Council and the Atomic Energy Commission, Israel Radio said.
Levey has lead efforts to freeze the financial assets of companies and organizations whose activities are deemed by the United States as hostile. Most recently, Levey lead the US move to prohibit US businesses, including banks, from working with three Iranian companies suspected of having connections with Tehran's nuclear program.
Levey operates under an executive order issued by US President George W. Bush in June 2005 that aims to financially punish those suspected of helping spread weapons of mass destruction.
Iran's refusal to freeze all enrichment-related activities prompted the Security Council to impose sanctions on December 23 targeting its nuclear and missile programs and the persons, companies and organizations involved in them. The council gave Teheran 60 days to halt enrichment or face additional nonmilitary measures.
The international community is still open to negotiating with Iran, McCormack said. But, he added, "Thus far, they have not chosen to pursue that pathway and, as a result, we're going to get another Security Council resolution."
He said he expected the new sanctions would build on the December 23 resolution and were likely to increase restrictions on travel and business.
Addressing Saturday's first official visit to Saudi Arabia by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where Iran's nuclear program was expected to come up in talks with King Abdullah and other officials, McCormack said:
"We would hope that they send a message to the Iranian president that across a wide spectrum, the Iranian behavior in the region and around the world is just unacceptable, whether it's their support for terrorism or their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction or their efforts to block any sort of progress in building a democracy in Lebanon or in the Palestinian areas."
It was this kind of behavior, he said, that had led the international community to seek new sanctions.
South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the current council president, said he was told to expect a resolution at any time, starting on Monday.
He said he was also told that the 10 non-permanent council members would have input in the new resolution - unlike the December 23 measure, which was drafted by the six nations and presented to the rest of the council for approval.
The US, Britain and France almost certainly favor tough new sanctions, but they know they will have to settle for less to ensure that Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran, won't use their veto power to block a new resolution.
Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said recently the new resolution would be looking at an "incremental" strengthening of sanctions - and the word "incremental" has been repeated by other council envoys.
Some diplomats said the new measure may include travel bans, expanding the list of technology and materials countries are banned from making available to Iran, and creating stiffer economic sanctions, including a ban on export guarantees for good sold to Iran, among other options.
The French Foreign Ministry, in a statement Friday, said the phone conversation among the six nations showed they were "fully in agreement on the framework of the next step" at the Security Council.
The ministry said the current sanctions could be strengthened "for example, by designating new people or new entities hit by restrictive measures... and through complementary measures." It didn't elaborate on what those measures might be.
UN diplomats said the six countries, which have been the key players in trying to negotiate with Iran, all believe the initial sanctions have had a positive effect on Teheran. They also agree that getting all 15 Security Council nations to support a new resolution is essential to send a united message to Teheran to freeze enrichment.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger called the talks "constructive and productive," and said they were being conducted "with great intensity."
"We have made good progress so far and we sense from all our partners a great seriousness and the will to move forward resolutely and together," he said in Berlin.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that "all variants of action by international society are being discussed" in the context of complying with the December 23 resolution.
"The main thing is that all sides are united in their wish to find a political resolution of the problems," Kislyak said.
Prof. Ji Kaiyun, an Iran specialist at Southwest Normal University in the western Chinese city of Chongqing, said, "Iran hopes for greater political and diplomatic support from China, but they're going to be disappointed.
"China really wants to help Iran in various fields. But there is an important condition: China does not want to challenge the China-US relationship and the rules of international society. So China has been pretty cautious in its relationship with Iran," Ji said.â€¢