FRANKFURT, Germany – After sharp divisions over how to deal with Iraq (search), Europe's top powers found in the Iranian nuclear dispute the opportunity to show unity and to demonstrate that a European approach can be a success in a stand-off, analysts said Tuesday.
After the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany flew to Tehran (search) for direct talks with Iranian officials, Iran pledged to suspect uranium enrichment, allow unfettered inspections of their facilities and answer questions about their nuclear program.
Those were key demands that the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has been pressing for weeks to determine whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, as Tehran claims, or aims to produce weapons, as the United States believes.
Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy representative, told reporters after a meeting at NATO (search) headquarters in Brussels that he was "very pleased to see how things are evolving in Tehran."
"We hope the agreement ... will allow for what is the objective of the European Union, for Tehran not to have the capacity for nuclear weapons, but for Tehran to have the capacity for nuclear power for civilian use," he said.
The three-nation intervention contrasted with the situation over Iraq, when Paris and Berlin split with London. France and Germany opposed the U.S.-led military action in Iraq, while fellow European Union member Britain sided with Washington.
According to Volker Perthes, a German foreign policy analyst, noted that in the case of Iran Britain had made it clear they did not support regime change in Tehran.
"The Europeans are united on Iran," Perthes told The Associated Press by telephone. "Naturally, they are eager to demonstrate that unity."
The talks gave also Europe the chance to show Washington that it "can wield influence in a different way than the Americans did in Iraq," said Perthes, the head of Mideast and Africa research at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a Berlin think tank.
The United States has taken a more confrontational approach to Iran's Islamic government, calling it part of an "axis of evil" and pressing for the IAEA to declare it in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. That step would likely lead to sanctions against Iran by the U.N. Security Council.
The Europeans, however, added a carrot to that stick.
Jack Straw of Britain, Dominique de Villepin of France and Joschka Fischer of Germany said in Tehran that if Iran proves its nuclear program is only for energy production, they would make it easier for it to get nuclear technology that Tehran has been eager to obtain.
"It was a signal: We also don't want Iran to develop their nuclear program and we won't be driven apart in that goal. But we have something else on offer -- cooperation, stronger economic integration," Perthes said.
Tuesday's pledge from Iran was for France "a way to show that dialogue is more efficient than confrontation," said Philippe Moreau Defarges of the French Institute for International Relations.
However, Moreau Defarges, speaking in Paris, added the agreement was not legally binding and was "just the first step of a very long process."