Security Council Fails To Reach Accord on Iran

John Sawers of the British Foreign Office denied statements by other officials that Britain had presented a new proposal to resolve the Iran crisis.
John Sawers of the British Foreign Office denied statements by other officials that Britain had presented a new proposal to resolve the Iran crisis. (Photos By Richard Drew -- Associated Press)
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 -- The Security Council's five permanent members and Germany failed to reach agreement at a meeting Monday on how to respond to the Iranian nuclear crisis but said they would forge ahead in the coming days to break the impasse.

The deadlock comes as U.S. and European officials confirmed that Britain had presented the United States with a paper outlining a possible diplomatic strategy to resolve the crisis, including new talks and concessions. But the British representative at Monday's talks, John Sawers, said Britain had not made such a proposal at the meeting.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said the United States is not going to participate in direct negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue.

Top foreign policy coordinators for the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany issued a joint statement that echoed an agreement Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had reached with those five governments in January. The statement expressed "deep concern" that Iran has "failed to respond positively" to requests by the United Nations' Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and allow for more intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear energy program.

The impasse follows weeks of negotiations over how to respond to Iran's behavior. The United States, France and Britain believe the threat of Security Council sanctions is required to pressure Iran to meet international calls to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities, which Iran insists are for peaceful purposes.

Russia and China oppose sanctions, and they want the Iranian crisis to be handled by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is considered more likely to pursue a negotiated settlement.

The paper circulated by British officials detailed an approach that could include new multinational talks with Iran. The talks would be aimed at satisfying demands by China and Russia that the United Nations' major powers had exhausted all diplomatic options to resolve the standoff with Iran, a senior administration official said Monday.

On Sunday, after the Associated Press reported that the British were discussing such an approach, another senior administration official denied that Britain had made such a proposal.

The United States has sought to avoid being drawn into new negotiations with Iran, saying Tehran has used talks to buy time to develop its nuclear know-how.

Staff writer Dafna Linzer contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company