The issue of what to do about Iran and its nuclear program will dominate a week of discussions in Europe next week.
Beginning Monday in London, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her foreign minister counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom will meet to negotiate the text of a resolution that the United States hopes will refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for violations of its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Sources familiar with the issue tell ABC News that Russia wants to slow the process with an "informal" report to the Security Council and the proviso that Iran's nuclear issue not be debated in New York until March. The United States, which will take over the rotating presidency of the Security Council in February, is holding firm that the issue be referred immediately.
Wasting no opportunity to press its own agenda, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was in Moscow yesterday and will be in Beijing tomorrow to persuade Russian and Chinese officials to oppose the Security Council referral.
Larijani also expressed support for a Russian initiative to enrich Iran's uranium on an "industrial scale," though he reportedly continues to insist that Iran retain the right to enrich its own uranium for research purposes. This position is almost certain to be rejected by U.S. officials who have long insisted that Iran maintain no independent uranium-enrichment capability, regardless of how small.
Midweek, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to issue a brief report on Iran's recent actions, including its decision to remove International Atomic Energy Agency seals from uranium-enrichment equipment at Natanz.
On Thursday and Friday, the IAEA's 35-member governing board meets to formally consider the resolution referring Iran to the Security Council.