Chalk up a diplomatic win for the White House. President Bush's surprise offer last week to talk to Tehran yielded breakthroughs that have momentarily quelled fears of U.S. military action against the Iranian regime. During a marathon meeting in Vienna with diplomats from the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, as well as Germany and the E.U. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice obtained an unprecedented commitment from Moscow and Beijing to support penalties in the Council if Iran refuses a package of political and economic incentives and continues nuclear activities that could enable it to build a Bomb.
European envoys hope to elicit the regime's answer before July's G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Vienna group agreed that if Iran fails to accede to the world's demands, the matter will return to the Security Council, which would enact unspecified punitive measures.
The unity could crumble if the Vienna group differs on whether Tehran is cooperating. But for now the pressure on Iran from all sides is growing. An International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran's activities is expected next week, and Western diplomats tell TIME that it will include "potentially incriminating" details about traces of highly enriched uranium recently found by inspectors on equipment at the Lavisan-Shian military site. The find is significant not because of the residue--it isn't Bomb grade and may have been on the equipment when it was bought from renegade Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan--but because Iran hasn't explained why such enrichment tools were found at a military facility. Iranian officials still insist their military is not engaged in nuclear work.