The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday he was concerned that UN sanctions on Iran could escalate the standoff with Western powers over its nuclear program.
Mohamed ElBaradei, speaking in Paris, called for a resumption of negotiations with Tehran. Asked about the possibility of France sending an envoy for discussions, he said, "I would support any effort by any side to engage Iran."
"My worry right now is that each side is sticking to its guns," said ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "We need someone to reach out."
ElBaradei, who was to meet later Thursday with France's foreign minister, said he disagreed with the idea that dialogue should be used to reward Iran for good behavior.
He said he was concerned about how the crisis might develop following the UN Security Council's imposition of limited sanctions in December.
"Sanctions in my view could lead to escalation on both sides," he said.
France says it is mulling the possibility of sending an envoy to Tehran for discussions that would focus on Middle East peace, Lebanon and other regional issues rather than the specific question of Iran's nuclear program. But officials at the presidential palace and the Foreign Ministry insist that a decision on whether to send an envoy has not been made and that Iran must first show willingness to negotiate.
The UN imposed sanctions to punish Iran for defying a resolution demanding that it suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear energy or weapons. Iran insists it only wants energy, while Western powers suspect it of seeking nuclear arms.