Foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany will meet next week in Berlin to discuss possible further sanctions against Iran, diplomats said on Tuesday.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ministers would try to close differences at the meeting over a third U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran for its refusal to give up sensitive nuclear work.
One said the meeting was tentatively set for Tuesday.
The German foreign ministry in Berlin had no comment on the meeting, which would bring together Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as the host country.
"Why do we need the Berlin meeting? If elements of a resolution aren't firmly agreed by ministers, we lose too much time with New York checking back with capitals for approval," a diplomat from one of the six countries told Reuters .
"We want to make sure that the (U.N.) missions in New York get a half-finished product to work with," the diplomat said.
The U.S. State Department indicated that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would attend such a meeting but declined to confirm officially that it was taking place until there had been an announcement from Germany.
"We have been working on a ministerial level P5+1 meeting. I hope that we can have an announcement for you on that in the not-too-distant future," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
McCormack said the idea of a meeting would be to talk about a third Security Council resolution against Iran. The West fears Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapon but Iran says its nuclear program is solely for power generation.
"It is also to have a strategy session about the way forward, how to move forward after the passage of another Security Council resolution," he added.
Asked whether differences had been narrowed down to agree on a new resolution, he said: "Nothing is done until everything is done. We will see. We have had some good conversations and there is still work to be done."
China and Russia have been balking at further sanctions resolutions against Iran, particularly after a U.S. intelligence estimate last month said Tehran had given up its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Several diplomats said the Russians in particular had issues with the proposed sanctioning of two more Iranian banks, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. A previous resolution slapped sanctions on Iran's Bank Sepah.
The United States imposed its own sanctions on those banks last October and would like to have them added to any new U.N. sanctions resolution.
Asked how the intelligence estimate had affected U.S. hopes for more U.N. sanctions on Iran, McCormack said he did not know whether it had slowed down the process but he stressed it had not changed Washington's view that Tehran was a threat.
"They have been a threat, remain a threat, and will be an even greater threat if, in fact, they continue along the pathway to uranium enrichment and maintain the possibility of developing a nuclear weapon," McCormack said.