IAEA to Close Iran Weapon Probe in Key Step for Ending Sanctions

  • Agency board meeting Tuesday in Vienna to end 12-year study
  • Iran oil and banking sanctions could be lifted by January

International monitors will close their probe into military aspects of Iran’s past nuclear activities on Tuesday in Vienna, a key step toward implementing July’s accord with world powers and lifting sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors is expected to unanimously agree on ending the 12-year probe, according to four officials who will participate, meeting a Dec. 15 deadline set in the landmark agreement.

The IAEA reported Dec. 2 that Iranian scientists had experimented with nuclear-bomb technologies without ever taking the final steps needed to produce a weapon. While not all of the investigators’ suspicions were resolved, they reported Iran had never diverted nuclear material to weapons use and stopped military-related activities in 2009.

Allegations that Iran conducted bomb-related experiments before 2009 are “unsubstantiated” and “fabricated,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber-Ansari told reporters on Monday in Tehran, reiterating denials that scientists had ever pursued a bomb.

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on his official website in October that while some nuclear activities “may have gone too far,” there was never a concerted effort to seek an atomic weapon.

Crude Declines

Oil fell below $35 a barrel on Monday in New York for the first time since 2009 as Iran, with the world’s No. 4 crude reserves, reiterated its pledge to boost exports once sanctions are lifted. Iranian oil companies and banks may be able to return to international markets by mid-January.

Iran is dismantling its nuclear infrastructure at a rapid pace, according to the officials, all of whom asked not to be named in return for discussing private information. Technicians are working around the clock to remove the necessary centrifuges and enriched uranium to comply with the accord.

While some IAEA members may not be entirely satisfied with the probe’s conclusions, nobody wants to disrupt passage of the broader deal, said one of the officials, calling the agency’s report a political rather than a technical document. The inspection powers awarded to the IAEA under the July pact are more important than an Iranian admission of guilt or show of contrition, they said.

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