Filed at 8:45 a.m. ET
VIENNA/TEHRAN (Reuters) - A senior Iranian official said on Thursday he was optimistic Iran would halt its uranium enrichment program as Europe demands, in a move aimed at easing fears that Iran is secretly developing atomic weapons.
``I am optimistic about a positive answer from Tehran to the Paris agreement,'' said Hossein Mousavian, secretary of the foreign policy committee of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.
``In the next few hours I will inform the three EU ambassadors in Tehran of Iran's response,'' he told Reuters, referring to the ambassadors of Britain, Germany and France which have conducted the EU talks in Paris with Iran.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agencywas awaiting a letter from Tehran informing the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog of the starting date and scope of the suspension of uranium enrichment.
Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or in weapons.
The EU's ``big three'' states reached a tentative deal with Iran in Paris last weekend under which Iran would halt enrichment in return for political and economic incentives.
Not all details of the agreement were worked out in Paris and the two sides were trying to clarify some aspects of the deal, diplomats familiar with the talks told Reuters.
The Iranians have been pushing for something tangible up front, not just promises of future ``carrots,'' they said.
``Iran wants something up front if it's going to suspend enrichment, not just promises. But the Europeans have refused,'' a diplomat said.
The Europeans have promised Iran a light-water nuclear reactor, which would be more difficult to use for weapons activity than heavy-water reactors. They have also agreed to open trade talks with the EU and thaw political relations.
The EU-Iran arrangement is similar to a deal the United States worked out with North Korea in the early 1990s, exchanging heavy-water for light-water technology while the IAEA supervised a freeze of its nuclear program.
But diplomats said French and German companies told their governments they would not be interested in supplying Iran with a reactor in case it harmed business with the United States.
U.S. SAYS IRAN WANTS ATOM BOMB
Washington, which says Iran's nuclear energy program is a front for developing a bomb, wants Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council for concealing its uranium enrichment program from the IAEA for nearly two decades.
Oil-rich Iran denies wanting nuclear technology for anything besides power generation.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Germany's parliament the talks with Iran were ``anything but easy.''
``Only the full and lasting suspension of enrichment activities ... by Iran can open the way for results-oriented talks on long-term cooperation,'' Fischer said.
One diplomat said time was running out to accept the deal, which would mean Iran escaping referral to the Security Council when the IAEA board of governors meets on Nov. 25.
If Iran rejects the deal, it will most likely be referred to the Security Council this month, diplomats say.
One of the sticking points in the talks with Iran concerns the preparation of uranium for the enrichment process. The Europeans want all uranium conversion activities halted, while Tehran wants to continue with some conversion work.