EU nations are set to announce this week that talks with Iran over its nuclear program have failed and leave it up to the UN Security Council to consider punitive action, official sources said on Friday.
According to draft conclusions of an European foreign ministers meeting next Tuesday, EU nations now believe that "Iran's continuation of enrichment-related activities has left the EU no choice" but to throw the issue back to the UN.
The ministers' conclusions on Iran, drawn up by the EU's 25 member nations, express "deep concern" that Iran has not yet suspended its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as required by the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog and a Security Council resolution.
In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday said that the path was clear for the Council to intervene in the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
Steinmeier said the EU had to accept "that we will not get to the negotiating table" after EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said last week that talks with Iran had broken down.
The French foreign ministry said on Friday that a "broad agreement" existed between the six world powers engaged in the Iran issue -- the Security Council five plus Germany -- about UN measures over Iran's nuclear program.
"This means that there is no argument against letting the Security Council deal with the matter," a spokesman for the ministry told reporters in Paris.
"It's clear that we are now going to work in New York [at the UN] very soon," ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.
However, the spokesman added that the door to the resumption of talks remains open.
"To double-lock the door to negotiations is not our vision of things," he said.
A European diplomat went further, saying that the EU foreign ministers will formally end negotiations with Tehran over Iran's nuclear ambitions at their talks in Luxemburg.
The ministers are due to declare that "negotiations with Iran have terminated because of a lack of results," the diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.
However, the draft of the meeting's conclusions dating from Oct. 11 does not include that sentence.
Senior diplomats from the six -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US -- discussed the sanctions during a videoconference on Wednesday morning, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"I think there is broad agreement on the potential sanctions that would be included, but not yet agreement on the specific items that would be in a resolution, that has to be worked out," he said.
The six have been debating for weeks over the kinds of sanctions to slap on Iran for ignoring an Aug. 31 UN deadline to suspend a uranium enrichment program that Washington and others fear will be subverted to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.
Under UNSC Article 41, members may "decide what measures, not involving the use of armed force, are to be employed to give effect to its decisions."
These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication and the severance of diplomatic relations.
But China and Russia, which both wield veto power on the Council, have balked at imposing the kind of punitive measures sought by Washington, with the backing of Britain.