The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency expressed cautious optimism Monday on the chances of international agreement to defuse concerns about Iran's contentious nuclear activities that would make UN Security Council action unnecessary. The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board was not likely to discuss the Iran issue until Tuesday or Wednesday. But delegates said that whatever step the council might take would stop far short of sanctions. ElBaradei suggested, however, that all councils steps could still be avoided as the board meeting opened. "I am still very much hopeful that in the next week an agreement could be reached," ElBaradei told reporters, alluding to talks between Moscow and Tehran aimed at moving Iran's enrichment program to Russia and possible further contacts between Iran and Europe.