The draft text, agreed in Berlin on Tuesday, says the resolution will demand that Iran halt enrichment immediately and will include a list of specific individuals whose travel should be restricted and assets frozen.

An earlier resolution approved by the Security Council last March had simply called on countries to stop the transit of Iranian officials involved in the nuclear and missile programmes.

'Strong proposal'

"It's a strong draft proposal which demonstrates the continuity of the approach of the international community," Jean-Maurice Ripert, the French ambassador to the UN, said in a statement.

"We are sending a very clear signal to Iran and we are increasing the pressure on Iran"

Jean-Maurice Ripert,
French ambassador to the UN
"We are sending a very clear signal to Iran and we are increasing the pressure on Iran," he said.

"Iran must respect its obligations."

The proposal also "calls upon states to exercise vigilance over the activities of financial institutions ... with all banks domiciled in Iran."

It says countries should be especially vigilant regarding two large Iranian banks - Bank Melli and Bank Saderat - though it does not ban transactions with them as Britain, France, Germany, the United States had wanted.

Dealings with Iran's Bank Sepah were banned in the second round of sanctions.

The proposal also urges countries to inspect cargo going into and coming out of Iran if they are suspicious of its contents and to be cautious about granting export credits or guarantees to companies doing business there.

Intelligence estimate

Al Jazeera's John Terrett in New York said that sanctions were expected to be imposed at the end of December but were delayed after a US intelligence estimate said that Iran stopped trying to develop a nuclear bomb in 2003.

"That kind of took the wind out of the sails of everybody at the United Nations," he said.

"We had been expecting sanctions to be imposed imminently but now here we are almost into February and the issue is only just coming back on the agenda."

Iran denies it is developing an atomic weapons programme under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme.