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Saudi Arabia accused of developing secret nuclear weapons programme as inspectors blocked

SAUDI ARABIA has been accused of running a secret nuclear programme, with its regional rival Iran accusing it of blocking inspections by the global atomic watchdog.

Kazem Gharibabadi, the Iranian ambassador to Vienna-based international organisations, alleged on Thursday that there was a “covert nuclear weapons programme in the country” and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to brief its members on developments.

He warned that Saudi Arabia would be able to hide some of its nuclear activity if inspections continued to be prevented from investigating.

“The IAEA is not being provided with even minimum necessary verification authorities,” Mr Gharibabadi said, going on to accuse the kingdom of destabilising activities in the region.

Saudi Arabia is officially a non-nuclear weapon state and a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international accord which aims to prevent the spread of atomic weapons and technology across the world.

But fears that it is developing such weapons in secret have been heightened by Iran accusing Riyadh of refusing “to abide by its commitments to the agency’s inspections, despite repetitive calls.”

Saudi Arabia is widely believed to have helped fund Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project since 1974, with agreements between the two nations on the provision of weapons and technology.

In 2006, German magazine Cicero published satellite photographs allegedly showing an underground city with nuclear missiles in al-Sulayil, south of the capital Riyadh.

In 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said that the kingdom would consider setting up a nuclear weapons programme if Iran succeeded in developing an atomic bomb.

The Saudi regime insists that its interest in uranium enrichment is aimed at the development of atomic energy and the construction its first research reactor began in 2020.

But experts have raised doubts, given that, in solar power, the country has a cheaper and safer source of alternative energy.

Last September, Riyadh was believed to have enough uranium ore reserves to develop 90,000 tonnes of uranium, amid reports of the regime showing “an aggressive interest in developing an atomic weapons programme.”

Discussions have taken place with the IAEA regarding the Additional Protocol, which provides for tougher checks including snap inspections.

The watchdog said that it was essential for the Saudi government to sign up to the additional monitoring to address weaknesses in its safeguarding system.

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