UN Nuclear Monitors End 12-Year Iran Nuclear-Weapons Probe

  • Sanctions against Islamic Republic could be lifted in January
  • IAEA has powerful new verification tools, Amano says

United Nations nuclear monitors ended their 12-year probe of Iran’s research into atomic-weapon technologies, moving Iran a major step closer to relief from international sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors closed the investigation in Vienna Tuesday without a vote following about four hours of debate.

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 that Iran had never diverted nuclear material to weapons use and stopped military-related activities in 2009.

Tuesday’s decision “moves the board’s focus from the longstanding possible-military-dimensions investigation toward implementation and monitoring” of the July nuclear accord, U.S. envoy Henry Ensher said in prepared remarks. “We must remain mindful that we are not closing the agency’s ability to investigate any potential concerns that may arise.”

Iran’s envoy, Reza Najafi, reiterated that sanctions could be lifted as early as January, once IAEA monitors have verified all the terms of the accord have been met. Iranian oil companies and banks may be able to return to international markets by mid-January, based on the pace at which the nation is disabling nuclear infrastructure.

“The IAEA will continue to undertake verification activities” and “we’ll have powerful new verification tools at our disposal,” IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said at a press briefing.

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