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EU Ministers Plan Meeting to Discuss Iran Nuclear Program

European foreign ministers are expected to meet in Paris next week to look for ways to coax Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program. It is unclear whether the European Union will adopt a harder line in talks now that Tehran has vowed to resume suspended nuclear activities.

Foreign ministers from France, Britain and Germany spearheading talks with Iran on its nuclear program are faced with a difficult situation. Europe's strategy of pressuring Tehran through diplomatic channels to give up its suspected nuclear program has not worked. But whether the Europeans will discuss a "Plan B" when they meet next week is unclear.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, is expected to represent his government in the negotiations.

Senior fellow Bruno Tertrais, of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, believes a new phase in EU-Iranian negotiations is unlikely to begin until after Iran's June presidential elections. He predicts the Europeans will likely use the upcoming meeting to reassess their strategy.

"I guess the Europeans at this point of time are going to take stock of what has been achieved or not achieved and will decide on the next steps, whether the Europeans should change their strategy, whether they should offer more, or whether they should threaten more in case the negotiations fail. That sort of thing," he explained.

Regular talks between Iranian and European officials have been going on for 19 months. But they floundered after Tehran announced it would resume its nuclear-enrichment program, which it insists is being carried out for peaceful purposes.

The United States and Europe have threatened Iran with the possibility of having the matter referred by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the United Nations, where Tehran could face sanctions.

But Mr. Tertrais, for one, does not believe the Europeans will fundamentally change their tactics, which have consisted of mixing the sanctions threat with promises of economic and political benefits should Iran abandon nuclear enrichment altogether.

Instead, he believes the position shift may come from Tehran, especially if the country faces a serious sanctions threat.

"One possibility is that Iran, if it sees that the situation is indeed transmitted to the UN Security Council, will back down," he said. "Which is very possible if we assume that Iran would not be happy to be isolated and have fingers pointed at the country [at the UN] in New York."

Experts say Europe is likely to lean toward recommending U.N. sanctions if diplomatic channels fail, a position supported by the United States.