Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Iran must make "urgent and constructive steps" to ease concerns about its programme.

The minister was speaking a day after diplomats from the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany met.

Lavrov said Russia wanted to wait until the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), filed a report on Iran before deciding on further action.

The Security Council has asked the IAEA to report by April 28 on Iran's compliance with a council demand that it halt uranium enrichment by that date and answer outstanding questions on its nuclear programme.

Envoys from the Group of Eight major industrialised nations  are to meet on Wednesday and are expected to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, also said discussion of sanctions should await the IAEA report.

 

"We're not there yet - let's wait for April 28," he told French radio, adding that use of military force against Iran was "absolutely not a question today".

 

All options open

Tuesday's meeting was called after Tehran declared last week that it had enriched uranium and was aiming for industrial-scale production.

Germany said on Wednesday that Angela Merkel, the German leader, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, would discuss Iran's nuclear plans during a meeting in the western Siberian city of Tomsk next week.

Jack Straw, the UK foreign secretary, told the BBC that the British government was working on the assumption that Iran would not meet the proposals.

"All options are on the table"

George Bush,
US president

"What is most likely to happen is that the matter will move back to the Security Council and there will then be discussions about the next steps," he said.

Meanwhile, George Bush, the US president, also said he would discuss Iran's nuclear activities with Hu Jintao, China's president. Hu has been cool towards sanctions.

Asked if his options included planning for a nuclear strike, Bush said: "All options are on the table."

However, he added that the US still wished to solve the issue through diplomatic means.

Washington believes Iran is trying to build bombs, but Tehran says it is only developing nuclear energy and will continue doing so.

The US, which already enforces its own sanctions on Iran, wants the UN Security Council to be ready for diplomatic action, including measures such as a freeze on assets and visa curbs on Iranian officials.