The magazine says Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's chief-of-staff Volker Stanzel suggested new measures to his French and British counterparts on Thursday.
The Europeans would try to reach agreement on extending sanctions on Tehran with the incoming US administration of Barack Obama, as well as Russia and China, which would not require a UN Security Council vote.
The aim was to give Obama a means of exerting pressure on Iran in any future dialogue, according to Der Spiegel.
In an interview broadcast on Sunday, Obama vowed “tough but direct diplomacy” with Iran, offering incentives along with the threat of tougher sanctions over its atomic programme.
As president from January 20, Obama said he would make clear to Tehran that the nuclear programme was “unacceptable,” along with support of Islamic radical groups Hamas and Hezbollah and its “threats against Israel.”
Obama, whose offer of direct talks with Iran represents a break with three decades of US foreign policy, promised a “set of carrots and sticks in changing their calculus about how they want to operate.”
Iranian officials gave a cool reception to his remarks.
Iran has faced three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment activities, but over the past five years has pressed on with its controversial nuclear work.
The United States and other Western powers suspect that the Islamic republic's nuclear program is a cover for an atomic weapons-making program.
Iran, a leading oil producer, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says it aims to provide energy for its growing population when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.