They will meet in New York on May 9 to discuss their reaction to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear programme, Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state, said on Friday.

He said that Condoleezza Rice, his boss, had called the meeting, which follows a report by the world nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, that Iran had ignored UN calls for it to stop enriching uranium.

"The report and the Iranians' actions that produced it really compel some form of action now by the international community… We think this will lead to consideration of a sanctions regime," Burns said.

Burns and other political directors from UN Security Council members Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany are to lay the groundwork for the foreign ministers' meeting with talks on Iran in Paris on Tuesday.

There is no agreement yet, but "the Security Council, to maintain its credibility, is going to have to find a way to act in a countervailing way" against Iran, he said.

Further action

US officials said China's foreign minister may miss the session on May 9 because of prior commitments, but Beijing would be represented by another official. Other foreign ministers are expected to attend.

At the United Nations in New York, Western diplomats said they planned to introduce a Security Council resolution by mid-week that would require Tehran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

The United States, backed by Britain and France, favours limited sanctions if Iran refuses to halt enrichment quickly. But Russia and China, the other two veto-holding permanent Security Council members, which want to protect stakes in Iran's energy sector, have so far opposed such moves.