The U.S. and the European Union both said it "doesn't make sense" to take Iran up on its offer of new talks to resolve the country's nuclear program standoff.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and EU policy chief Javier Solana continued the tough talk on Iran during a meeting at the U.S. State Department. They said they intend to refer the Iranian matter to the U.N. Security Council
Last week Iran broke U.N. seals on its nuclear enrichment facility, pledging to conduct only research, but international officials said Tehran also planned small-scale enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear weapons.
"Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, they must not be allowed to pursue activities that might lead to nuclear weapons ... and on that front we are united," Rice said.
No Point Meeting
Rice pressed Iran to show that the United States and the EU are "not just talking" but are "serious."
"I'm getting the sense from the Europeans that there is not much to talk about," she said before the meeting with the EU's de facto foreign minister.
Solana reaffirmed those remarks by adding there would be no point to a new round of meetings "if there's nothing new on the table."
Solana confirmed that the EU had received a letter from Iran stating an interest in pursuing new talks but said the EU had not responded to that letter. Europe's new "position now is to have a extraordinary meeting in Vienna and then to refer the dossier to the Security Council," he said.
Last week France, Germany and the United Kingdom abandoned their negotiating efforts to have Iran cease its nuclear program. The United States has long insisted that Iran, given its history and support of terrorist activities, must not have access to technologies that could put the Islamic republic in possession of nuclear weapons.
Solana told reporters that in the coming weeks there would be a flurry of diplomatic activity as the United States and the EU reach out to the 35 members of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors -- which serves as an the international nuclear watchdog -- before it meets in an emergency session to refer Iran to the Security Council.
"We want to make sure every member of the board of governors is aware of the importance of the decisions that are going to be taken at the extraordinary meeting," Solana said.
Need More Than a Majority
U.S. officials have said for weeks that they have a majority of votes on the board to refer Iran to the U.N Security Council. Because the board works by consensus, it will take more than just getting a majority; it will be important for the United States and its EU partners to ensure that opponents abstain and not vote "no."
Top diplomats from the Security Council already met in London to discuss future action against Iran.
Russia and China have been seen as the greatest obstacles to pursuing tough action.
On the heels of the London meeting, both countries seemed to indicate they would abstain from the IAEA vote that would allow Iran to be taken to the Security Council. The big issue then becomes what stance either country will take when the the U.N. takes up the matter.
Neither has indicated it advocates economic and political sanctions.
"We're continuing to talk to the Russians and the Chinese," Rice said, adding that both countries have "expressed their very grave concerns about what Iran has done, and we'll continue to work with them on a future course."
Despite speculation in recent weeks that the Security Council would take up immediate sanctions, U.S. officials told ABC News that the process would likely be more drawn out than expected.
They foresee tough language emerging from the Security Council that would urge Iran to cease or suspend its nuclear program and seek a negotiated end to the stalemate.
If there's a negative reaction from the Iranians, officials say sanctions are likely but will not be as severe as media reports have described. The sanctions would be directed at individuals (freezing assets or banning travel, for example) rather than imposing an oil embargo as was done in Iraq before the war.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refuses to back down and has warned that economic sanctions on Iran would prove painful for oil importers.