By Ray Fleming

THE surprising agreement between Iran, Brazil and Turkey on Monday to find a solution to Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions was followed yesterday by an equally surprising announcement by the United States that China and Russia had agreed to put their names to a UN Security Council resolution calling for extensive new sanctions against Iran for its failure to respond to earlier calls to open its uranium enrichment programme to inspection by the UN International Atomic Agency. On Monday the general assumption was that by clever last minute diplomacy Iran had effectively disrupted the final stages of the sanctions resolution but yesterday US Secretary of State dismissed Iran's move as proof of how concerned it was about the effectiveness of the proposed sanctions. Only time will tell who is right.

There is always a danger of China changing its mind at the last moment because it is a major customer for Iran's oil.

The involvement of Brazil and Turkey in an agreement with Iran suggests that it was not a last minute move by Tehran to stop the finalisation of the Security Council resolution but had been in preparation for some time. Iran would not want to be shown to be using Brazil and Turkey for its own short term purposes. Nor would the United States want to be seen to be snubbing Brazil and Turkey, who are both current Security Council members, by overriding their diplomatic initiative.