By DAVID CRAWFORD
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL – The U.S. and representatives of the European Union have agreed to impose joint sanctions against Iran in January and are considering breaking off talks with the country, as patience with Tehran’s nuclear activities wears thin, according to people familiar with the matter.
Western officials are discussing making further talks with Iran contingent on Tehran’s progress toward compliance with existing United Nations Security Council resolutions, which call on Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.
Iran returned to the negotiating table this month in Geneva with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which seek to contain Tehran’s nuclear program. The talks led to an agreement to another round of discussions early next year in Istanbul.
Some Western officials accuse Iran of playing for time by agreeing to talks but refusing to engage in meaningful negotiations. Senior diplomats from the U.S., U.K. and France met in Paris on Tuesday to chart the new course, amid growing frustration over Iran’s obstruction of IAEA inspections. London and Paris help to coordinate policy for the entire EU on Iran.
The three nations plan to finalize details of the plan by the end of the year, then deliver the proposal to the EU sanctions committee to get the new measures in place before talks resume in Istanbul.
Iranian officials couldn’t be reached late Friday to comment. Iran says it fully complies with its international obligations.
It is unclear what shape the new sanctions will take. The three countries agreed that the U.S. and European Union should act together with a uniform set of sanctions, rather than seeking further United Nations sanctions, a time-consuming process with no guarantee of success.
The IAEA says Iran isn’t fully cooperating with the U.N. agency’s efforts to determine whether Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful nuclear purposes. The Security Council has imposed and strengthened sanctions against Iran on four occasions since 2006. The U.S. and the EU have imposed even stricter sanctions.
The measures have hit Iran’s economy hard but have so far failed to break the will of its political leadership. Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Going into the Geneva talks, Iran stressed its right to produce nuclear fuel is nonnegotiable—contrary to Western demands—and announced scientific gains that would complete its mastery of the nuclear-fuel cycle.