The Times: Saudi Arabia broke its silence yesterday in the growing row between the West and Iran by warning Tehran that its nuclear ambitions could bring disaster to the region.
16 January 2006
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor
SAUDI ARABIA broke its silence yesterday in the growing row between the West and Iran by warning Tehran that its nuclear ambitions could bring disaster to the region.
Prince Saud al-Faisal, the veteran Saudi Foreign Minister, criticised President Ahmadinejads Administration, urging him to forgo atomic energy, to moderate his foreign policy and resist the temptation of interfering in Iraq.
Speaking before a terrorism conference in London, which he will be attending today, Prince Saud spoke for many in the Arab world when he cautioned of the dangers of a regional arms race.
We are urging Iran to accept the position that we have taken to make the Gulf, as part of the Middle East, nuclear free and free of weapons of mass destruction. We hope that they will join us in this policy and assure that no new threat of arms race happens in this region, he told The Times.
He said that the problem stemmed from Israel being allowed to build nuclear warheads, prompting others to follow suit. Nobody mentions that Israel has 100 nuclear weapons in stock, even though it is an open secret, he said.
In spite of suggestions that Saudi Arabia might seek to build its own nuclear deterrent if Iran acquired an atomic bomb, Prince Saud insisted that Riyadh was determined not to. While the international community is largely in favour of allowing Iran to develop a civilian nuclear industry to produce power, Prince Saud said that even this was potentially dangerous, a clear reference to the nuclear reactor being built at Bushehr in Iran. (The Iranian reactor) is on the Gulf and being built with Russian technology. Just think if a Chernobyl accident happened here.
But the Prince was not optimistic that his appeal would be heeded. Although the Saudi Government had not yet had the opportunity of working closely with Mr Ahmadinejad, Prince Saud described his statements as extreme and urged him to continue the policies of his moderate predecessor Mohammad Khatami.
We hope his Administration will be a stabilising force and not a destabilising force, he said. If he goes the way that President Khatami went in foreign policy, we think we can work together. But that will have to be tested in time.
Another area of potential conflict between the two sides is over the future of Iraq. Saudi Arabia is concerned that Iran may be tempted to exploit its influence over Shia Muslim political parties that won last months parliamentary elections and will form the future government.
Prince Saud said that Iraq must be maintained as a unified country, giving warning of the dangers of splitting off its oil-rich south into a Shia region with close ties to Iran.