Riyadh: Saudi Arabia said on 5 March Iran’s nuclear programme was an extra burden on a region already fraught with challenges, but that Gulf Arab allies had the right to their own peaceful atomic ambitions.
Arab Foreign ministers of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss progress in their plans for a joint civil atomic programme that has raised fears of a nuclear race with Iran.
They agreed at a summit in December to study the feasibility of developing nuclear energy.
“The nuclear crisis in the region has become an extra burden to challenges that are already facing us,” Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told GCC foreign ministers.
“This urges us to deal with the new challenge with full responsibility and adopt diplomatic solutions in a way that would preserve the right of countries in the region for their own nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
Prince Saud also criticised Israel, which is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.
“The International Atomic Energy Agency standards and measures should apply to all countries in the region without exceptions, including Israel.”
The GCC is a loose political and economic alliance which comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Earlier, GCC Secretary-General Abdul-Rahman al-Attiyah, who visited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in February, said he would brief the meeting about plans to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog.
The GCC’s decision to pursue a nuclear programme has raised concerns that Arab states may want to protect themselves if Iran acquires nuclear weapons. Gulf Arabs have expressed concern over Iran’s nuclear programme which the US says could be aimed at making bombs. Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
Six world powers are now negotiating widening sanctions against Iran for pressing ahead with its programme to enrich uranium and ignoring a 21 February UN deadline to stop.
Gulf states say their nuclear programme will be used for power generation.