China, Russia, France, the United States, Germany, and Britain expressed "serious concerns" about Iran's resumption of small-scale uranium enrichment, Britain's Foreign Office said.
The powers stopped short of referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions, instead calling for an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy on Feb. 2-3 to discuss the issue. The 35-nation IAEA board could itself refer the issue to the Security Council.
The stepped up diplomatic activity came nearly a week after Iran removed U.N. seals at its main uranium enrichment plant and resumed research on nuclear fuel after a two-year hiatus. CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports Iran's actions have pushed even its allies to have second thoughts about the country's nuclear ambitions, but there's no clear agreement on how to thwart them.
With a billion-dollar stake in Iran's atomic energy building program, Russia is eager to diffuse the crisis. So is China, Roth reports, which buys 300,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day.
The move alarmed the West, which fears Iran intends to build an atomic bomb. Iran claims its program is peaceful, intended only to produce electricity and it has threatened to end all cooperation the U.N. nuclear watchdog if it is brought before the Security Council.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that she wants a vote as soon as possible on whether to refer Iran to the council and is working to line up support.
"We've got to finally demonstrate to Iran that it can't with impunity just cast aside the just demands of the international community," Rice said while traveling in Africa.
The Russian president suggested there might still be hope of avoiding that path, saying Iran has not ruled out conducting its uranium enrichment in Russia, which would allow for close oversight.
In Moscow, Putin said the Iranians had indicated "they did not exclude the implementation of our proposal."
"In any case, it's necessary to work carefully and avoid any erroneous moves," he added.
Iran's ambassador to Moscow praised the idea.
"This is a good initiative to resolve the situation. We believe that Iran and Russia should find a way out of this jointly," Gholamreza Ansari said in comments translated into Russian and shown on state Channel One television.