PARIS - Leading international powers may have an agreement within weeks on a third UN sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program, a French diplomat said after high-level talks in Paris yesterday.
A compromise text on a new resolution would be circulated among the six countries involved in the talks - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany - this week, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
"We could have a resolution in the short term," the official said, adding he was relatively optimistic it could be completed in the coming weeks.
The talks were held a day after the collapse of an 18-month European Union effort to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment, a process that can be used both for producing nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
The French official called those talks "a disaster."
On Friday, EU envoy Javier Solana held meetings with Saeed Jalili, Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, in London. The meeting was seen as a last chance for Iran to give in to UN pressure and freeze its enrichment program before an EU report on Iran's nuclear program that will be used in the discussion of new sanctions.
"Our objective remains the opening of negotiations" on Iran's nuclear program, the French diplomat said. "But all the efforts to open negotiations are going nowhere."
The United States, France, and Britain are urging quick and tough new sanctions, but Russia and China appear to be skeptical.
Still, the French official said there were no "deep differences" among the six countries at yesterday's talks.
While Iran insists it has a right to peaceful use of uranium enrichment to generate power, Washington and others fear the activity could be misused to create the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
The UN Security Council imposed two previous sets of sanctions in December 2006 and March this year. The current set bans Iranian arms exports and freezes the assets of 28 people and groups involved in its nuclear and missile programs.
Iran has raised the possibility of using oil as a weapon to protect its nuclear program, a threat that has roiled world energy markets.
It sells 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, making it OPEC's second-largest producer. Any decision by Tehran to yank that supply off the market would propel prices steeply upward.
Iran could squeeze supplies even further by trying to choke off the Strait of Hormuz - the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf - that serves as the transit route for more than 30 million barrels of oil a day, or nearly 40 percent of the world's supply.
An additional daily 2 million barrels of oil products, including fuel oil, move through the strait, as well as tankers carrying liquefied natural gas.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has threatened to shut the strait in response to US military pressure.
His naval commanders say they have an array of high-tech weapons, including a super-speed torpedoes and a sonar-evading, antiship missile, although US officials and outside military analysts are skeptical.