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Riyadh has 'sovereign right' to enrich uranium, says Saudi prince

Turki al-Faisa holds no post in government but was a former ambassador to Washington [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 December, 2017

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Saudi Arabia should not forfeit its 'sovereign' right to enrich uranium under its planned civilian nuclear programme, Saudi Arabia's influential prince Turki al-Faisal told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia must uphold its "sovereign right" to enrich uranium as it currently plans its civilian nuclear programme, Reuters reported on Thursday citing a Saudi prince.

Riyadh should not forfeit its right to uranium enrichment especially after world powers have allowed Iran to do so, Saudi Arabia's influential prince Turki al-Faisal told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

"It's a sovereign issue. If you look at the agreement between the P5+1 with Iran specifically it allows Iran to enrich," al-Faisal said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

"The world community that supports the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran told Iran you can enrich although the NPT (global non-proliferation treaty) tells us all we can enrich," said al-Faisal, who currently holds no post in government but was a former ambassador to Washington.

"So the kingdom from that point of view will have the same right as the other members of the NPT, including Iran."

Saudi Arabia has been engaged in negotiations with Donald Trump's administration over buying nuclear power technology.

While Riyadh claims it seeks the technology for peaceful purposes, the Trump administration has expressed willingness to share nuclear technology with the kingdom without any safeguard guarantees.

The US usually signs agreements with countries its companies want to share nuclear technology with, to rule out uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce nuclear fuel for atomic weapons.

However, the Trump administration may see a significant shift in this nuclear policy.

Last month, Christopher Ford, the national security council's senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counter proliferation told the Senate that while reaching such agreement with Riyadh is the ideal outcome, it is not necessary.

"It remains US policy, as it has been for some time, to seek the strongest possible non-proliferation protections in every instance," Ford said. "It is not a legal requirement. It is a desired outcome."

US firms are expected to bid in the multi-billion-dollar contract to build the Saudi Arabia's first two nuclear reactors next year.

The kingdom is looking to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next 20 to 25 years, at a cost of up to $80 billion.

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