The European Union has decided to back limited sanctions against Iran's nuclear program following months of inconclusive negotiations. From Paris, Lisa Bryant the EU's decision Tuesday is influenced by North Korea's nuclear bomb test last week.
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg have called for incremental sanctions, initially targeting people and materials linked to Iran's nuclear enrichment activities. Among the officials who spoke out strongly against Tehran's refusal to give up its nuclear program was French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste Blazy, who said the Iranian government left the EU no choice but to support limited sanctions.
The Reuters news agency reports that the six nations involved in negotiations with Iran will discuss ways to go ahead with a sanctions resolution at the United Nations on Wednesday.
The EU's decision follows weeks of inconclusive talks, principally involving the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani. The West has offered Iran an incentive package to coax it to abandon it nuclear program, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists Tehran has the right to continue what he says are nuclear programs for peaceful purposes.
Despite the impasse, Daniel Keohane, an analyst at the Center for European Reform in London, says the discussions were not a complete failure.
"It was good to keep the Iranians at the table, to keep them talking. The problem was perhaps expectations were a bit high."
Keohane also says the Iranian leadership is divided over how hard a line to maintain in the nuclear negotiations. The threat of sanctions might prompt some to decide President Ahmadinejad has gone too far.
The European Union officials also made it clear their decision was influenced by North Korea's test last week of a nuclear bomb. But even as they called for a united and determined response to Iran, they also made it clear that the door for negotiations remained open.