Germany's foreign minister said there is currently no prospect of successful nuclear talks with Iran, but stressed in a radio interview that pressure on the country would be applied gradually -- leaving the door open to future negotiations.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave no details of sanctions that might be taken against Tehran. However, he noted that a package of incentives aimed at persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment is still on offer.
Repeated attempts by the UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany to entice Iran into negotiations on its nuclear program foundered earlier this month over Tehran's refusal to give up uranium enrichment.
"We do not at the moment have a situation in which negotiations can be held with prospects of success, so the Security Council must take up its efforts" to work toward possible sanctions, Steinmeier said in the interview broadcast on Saturday.
"But we have made equally clear that our offer for cooperation with Iran remains on the table," Steinmeier added, referring to the conclusions of an Oct. 6 meeting of foreign ministers from the veto-wielding council members and Germany.
"That means, we are ready to return to the negotiating table any time if Iran declares its readiness to recognize the conditions for negotiations," he said. "Iran must understand that, if we negotiate, the building of further centrifuges must stop."
Steinmeier indicated that EU foreign ministers will endorse the six powers' conclusions when they meet tomorrow.
He said the six had talked about a "catalog of possible sanctions" in the summer, but did not elaborate on what measures might be applied.
"We agreed that not all possibilities should be used immediately, but that we naturally seek a process in which, as far as it is necessary, pressure against Iran can be increased slowly," he added.
"The Security Council members will calculate sanctions with responsibility [in mind] for this route back to the negotiating table and the fact that it remains open, and I am relatively sure that we will reach an agreement," Steinmeier said.
While the US favors a tough line on Iran, Russia and China have advocated less severe measures.
Steinmeier argued, however, that both countries have reason to feel angered by Iran's brusque rejection in the past of proposed compromises.
"The Iranian leadership should not count on the economic interests that both states certainly have automatically determining the position of their governments toward the Iranian nuclear conflict," he said.
Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to the UN yesterday urged the council to take tough measures against "demented" Iran for its nuclear program.
"The international community should learn the lessons of what occurred in North Korea," Danny Gillerman told army radio.
"North Korea was only the preview. Iran will be the feature film, which, if no one takes serious action, will be projected throughout the whole world," he added.
Gillerman called for "much harder sanctions to be imposed on a demented Iranian regime that seeks to destroy a UN member state [Israel], and totally denies the Holocaust, while preparing to perpetrate a second Holocaust."
Last Tuesday Israel said it feared North Korea could transfer nuclear technology to Iran, after Pyongyang announced it had carried out its first nuclear test.