The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency said on Monday that Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.

In an interview broadcast on Channel 10, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, said the Islamic Republic is still lacking the key components to produce an atomic weapon.

"They do not have even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so," ElBaradei said. "Even if you decide to walk out tomorrow from the non-proliferation treaty and you go into a lot of scenarios, we're still not going to see Iran tomorrow having nuclear weapons."

Senior diplomats from six world powers on Monday discussed the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but they failed anew to reach a consensus on how or whether to proceed, U.S. officials said.

The high-level talks among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - along with Germany, came after the Chinese dropped objections to the consultations, the officials said. China had blocked the discussion for nearly two weeks, apparently in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

The United States had been trying to organize the telephone conference call since the beginning of the month after the Security Council, in late September, passed a new resolution reaffirming three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran but imposing no new penalties that the U.S. and its European allies had sought.

On the call, the diplomats said "they remain committed to the dual-track strategy and will remain in close contact on developments over the coming days and weeks," said deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood. He declined to discuss details of the conversation.

The dual-track strategy is the main element of a slow-moving pressure campaign to persuade Iran to give up objectionable parts of its nuclear program. It calls for offering Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium but imposing sanctions if Tehran refuses, which it has thus far done.

Russia and China have balked at additional sanctions.