US could 'block Saudi nuclear energy' over Khashoggi killing

US senators move to block Saudi nuclear energy deal over Khashoggi killing
2 min read
20 December, 2018
Talks backed by the Trump administration to strike a deal to share nuclear power technology with Riyadh have come under scrutiny since Khashoggi's killing.
The No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act was introduced on Wednesday. [Getty]

US senators on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation to give Congress the power to block nuclear power cooperation with Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Talks backed by the Trump administration to strike a deal to share nuclear power technology with Riyadh have come under scrutiny since Khashoggi's killing.

The No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act introduced by US senators would require both the House of Representatives and the Senate to approve any agreement with Riyadh.

Such agreements usually go into effect unless majorities pass joint resolutions of disapproval.

The new bill calls on Saudi Arabia to release details of Khashoggi's murder before any deal can be approved. It is unlikely that the legislation will pass before the current Congress ends in January.

"This legislation would ensure that we put key checks in place to ensure that Saudi Arabia never ends up with the US technology or materials to make a nuclear bomb, and that Congress is the final say," said Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat.

Markey introduced the bill with Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Democrat representatives Brad Sherman and Republican Luke Messer have introduced companion legislation in the House.

"This important bill will ensure Congress has oversight over and the right to affirmatively approve any nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, and also continues to press the Saudis for accountability in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder," Rubio said in a statement.

Concerns over whether Saudi Arabia could use nuclear power to develop a weapons program spiked earlier this year after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Riyadh would develop nuclear weapons in Iran did.

US lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate voted last week to end US military support for the Riyadh-led war in Yemen, and separately held Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for Khashoggi's killing. 

The largely symbolic vote dealt a fresh warning to President Donald Trump, who has staunchly backed the Saudi regime in the face of intense global outrage that analysts say has left the kingdom diplomatically weakened.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab