By Ray Furlong
BBC correspondent in Berlin
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting the US for a two-day trip set to be dominated by the confrontation over Iran's nuclear programme.
Western powers have accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon
Officials in Berlin said the visit would be used to show unity with the US in increasing the pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.
They said the discussion of sanctions was a possibility, but that Germany remained opposed to the use of force.
This is Mrs Merkel's second visit to Washington since taking office.
The imposition of sanctions would not come immediately: the first step would be a binding UN resolution, toughening up the statement approved by the Security Council in March.
This could then be followed by political sanctions, with economic sanctions being a final measure, the officials said.
Germany is one of Iran's most important trading partners, and a clear word from Berlin suggesting that economic sanctions are on the agenda would be a strong signal to Tehran.
Mrs Merkel will spend an hour with President George W Bush in the Oval Office after arriving on Wednesday afternoon, before later having dinner with him.
On Thursday evening, in New York, she will be one of the main speakers at a gala reception marking the 100th anniversary of the American-Jewish Committee - America's most influential Jewish organisation.