The Times: The Emir of Kuwait has implored Irans leadership to come to its senses and avoid plunging the region into a new conflict over its controversial nuclear programme. The Times
Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor
The Emir of Kuwait has implored Irans leadership to come to its senses and avoid plunging the region into a new conflict over its controversial nuclear programme.
Ahead of his first official visit to Britain as Kuwaits head of state today, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah raised fears that the Gulf could be dragged into a new confrontation unless Iran satisfied the world that it was not seeking to build an atomic bomb.
The President of Iran visited me here. We had a very frank talk. We told him that if nuclear energy will be used for peaceful purposes we will be first to welcome it, Sheikh Sabah told The Times at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City. But if it is the intention of his leadership to use this energy for military purposes, then we will be very unhappy. I hope they use their heads, that they will be reasonable, that wisdom will prevail. They must avoid this very dangerous stage which at present they are in and avoid the dangerous situation that might befall them, the 77-year-old ruler said.
President Bush recently ordered a second aircraft carrier battle group to be sent to the Gulf to check Irans growing influence in the region. Iran is in defiance of the United Nations Security Council for failing to halt its uranium enrichment programme, which many fear could be diverted to produce fissile material used as the core of a nuclear warhead.
Kuwait, as Washingtons closest ally in the region and an astute observer of its neighbour Iran, is not convinced that the crisis has been averted. Asked about the threat of US or Israeli military action, the Emir replied: I hope that the confrontation will not happen, but everything is possible.
One result of Irans nuclear ambitions is the interest shown by other regional states to master nuclear technology. Turkey and Egypt have already announced that they will build atomic power plants.
Sheikh Sabah revealed that the oil-rich Arab Gulf states were also planning to build their own reactor. It is true. We need nuclear facilities for peaceful usage. We will not be able to rely on oil to generate our electricity needs for ever. Therefore we are actively considering the nuclear option and we have commissioned a study to look into it. We are seeking one reactor that would serve the whole region.
Experts suspect that the move, in a region blessed with the worlds largest oil and gas reserves, is intended to provide the Arab world with its own nuclear capability should it one day need a deterrent against an Iranian atomic bomb.
Underlying the tensions with Iran is the fear among rulers of the Gulf states that a resurgent Tehran will attempt to extend its influence in the Arab world by inflaming its Shia Muslim brethren. Last week Sheikh Sabah used a speech marking his first anniversary in power to appeal to his countrymen to abandon differences.
He gave warning of grave consequences for Kuwait if it failed to learn the lessons of neighbouring Iraq, where Sun-nis and Shias are locked in a sectarian civil war. Sheikh Sabah insisted that Kuwait, with a population of one-third Shia, would remain united.