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We'll build nukes if Iran does, says Saudi prince

Saudi Arabia's crown prince made the remarks in a US television interview [AP]

Date of publication: 15 March, 2018

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Saudi Arabia's crown prince warned in a US television interview that if Tehran gets a nuclear weapon, his country will follow suit.
If Tehran gets a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will follow suit, the kingdom’s crown prince warned in a US television interview, reports said on Thursday.

"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an excerpt of the interview that aired Thursday on CBS 'This Morning.'

The 32-year-old prince also used the interview to liken Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as "the new Hitler" because "he wants to expand."

"He wants to create his own project in the Middle East, very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time," Prince Mohammed said.

"Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East."

The interview is scheduled to run on CBS's ’60 Minutes’ show on Sunday, two days before the crown prince's scheduled White House meeting with US President Donald Trump.

His comments come amid concerns over nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and just days after the kingdom put an atomic energy program on a fast track.

Although intended to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, analysts warn the capacity to produce atomic energy could open a pathway to nuclear development for military purposes.

A 2015 nuclear agreement has placed curbs on Iran's nuclear program, but Trump has expressed a desire to scrap it, making its future uncertain.

The Saudi cabinet says its nuclear program will be in "full compliance with the principle of transparency" and meet nuclear safety standards "in accordance with an independent regulatory and supervisory framework."

The country has accelerated plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades, according to officials and analysts, at a cost of around $80 billion.

Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh said in October that the nuclear program would start by building two reactors, each producing between 1.2 and 1.6 gigawatts of electricity.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, who severed diplomatic ties in January 2016, have taken opposing sides in wars in Syria and Yemen - becoming regional arch-enemies.

Iran is the main regional backer of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been launching a brutal campaign against his country’s civilians to maintain power after peaceful protests began in 2011.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Iran-backed Houthi rebels opposed to the internationally recognised government since 2015 in a war that has killed more than 10,000.

While western powers and their Gulf Arab allies say Iran is a destabilising influence in the Middle East, Tehran has denied the charges and has regularly called for a dialogue with its neighbours free of any foreign interference.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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