Germany remained hesitant on new sanctions against Iran even as the US and France on Friday called for new punitive measures at a Washington meeting to press Iran to halt its nuclear work.
The six nations dealing with Iran's nuclear program have had a difficult time agreeing on possible sanctions
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said Germany still aimed to reach a negotiated settlement with Tehran and avoid a new round of UN sanctions.
"A substantial offer from the EU is on the table. We are still in talks with Iran to receive a concrete and, we hope, positive response to this offer. This has until now still been lacking," he said when asked about the calls for sanctions.
Germany is one of six world powers attempting to convince Iran to halt sensitive nuclear work with an incentives package in exchange for full suspension of uranium enrichment.
"Should there be no progress on the negotiations track, the German government believes the UN Security Council will become more relevant again and discussions will have to be held whether there should be new resolutions.
"This is not the track we are seeking -- we want progress from negotiations. But unfortunately what we have seen until now has not made us optimistic."
Ploetner said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had stressed the importance of settling the issue quickly during talks Monday with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.
Officials from the six nations, which also includes Russia, China and the UK, are scheduled to meet Friday, Sept. 19, before the UN General Assembly convenes in New York. Foreign ministers are expected to convene over Iran during the annual meeting.
Unity required to approve new sanctions
It remains unlikely that the Security Council will unite behind the French sanctions resolution
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he believes Russia and China are "quite worried" about Iran's nuclear program and that a report presented Monday by the IAEA nuclear watchdog "isn't good for Iran."
But he added that he didn't think Moscow and Beijing would completely turn around and support the West's call for more sanctions.
Washington and European capitals have accused Tehran of enriching uranium in order to produce atomic weapons. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is intended solely to create electricity.
"The main option here is a fourth UN sanctions resolution, but that is a possibility that requires Russian, Chinese and European cooperation," a senior US official, who asked not to be named as his comments were sensitive, told Reuters news agency.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Thursday there was agreement to move forward with a new sanctions resolution, but it was unclear how far the six political directors would get in hammering out a detailed agreement.
Tough steps unlikely
Ahmadinejad said Iran would not change course
"This is probably a discussion which will be aimed at seeing where each of the individual states are in terms of the timeline of moving forward and the content of a new resolution," McCormack told reporters.
Iran experts have said that even if the UN Security Council members plus Germany, who are responsible for negotiations with Iran, agreed to a new resolution, it would be a weaker version than Washington and others wanted.
Restrictions would likely be placed on Iranian companies but not the oil industry or oil products.
"My guess is that the sanctions will be watered down and there is every reason for the Russians to drag this out," Gary Samore of the Council on Foreign Relations told Reuters.
Ahead of Friday's meeting, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, again said Tehran would not stop its enrichment program regardless of whether the UN decides to impose a new round of sanctions.