The UN Security Council was expected to pass a resolution yesterday that could take the international community one step closer to a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.
The draft resolution that gives Iran until Aug. 31 to halt its uranium enrichment work is expected to be easily passed by the council following weeks of negotiations among the major powers.
If Iran, which is maintaining a hard line going into the vote, refuses to halt its nuclear work, the Security Council can start discussing economic and political sanctions.
The US and its allies believe Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.
US ambassador to the UN John Bolton has said that if Iran does not comply by the end of this month then his country will "forcefully" press for sanctions.
Russia and China, which strongly opposed any talk of sanctions in the current resolution, have not yet indicated how they see the next phase of the dispute with Tehran.
"I think the Iranians are cornered," US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said on Sunday.
"What they specifically thought was that they could divide China and Russia, on the one hand, from the United States and Europe on the other, and that's not happened," he said.
Burns said he believed that Iran had been "surprised" by Russia and China agreeing to the resolution.
"This is going to be a significant blow to them," he said on Fox News television.
Asked what type of sanctions Iran could face, Burns said: "Obviously, we're going to have to focus on the nuclear industry and try to cut off dual-use exports, exports of technologies that can help them further their enrichment and reprocessing activities."
"We certainly would like to inhibit the ability of Iranians to travel, Iranian government officials, or for people to profit from our scientific and technological expertise," he added.
Iran threatened on Sunday to reject an offer of international economic and political incentives to stop its uranium enrichment if the Security Council passes the resolution.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said that Tehran could "revise" its policies -- implicitly warning that future access for UN inspectors could end -- and that the proposed UN resolution would "worsen the crisis in the region."
"If tomorrow they pass a resolution against Iran, the package will not be on the agenda any more," he said of the international incentives.
Iranian leaders have already warned they could halt cooperation with inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and even quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.