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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Saudi Arabia's crown prince: If Iran develops nuclear bomb, so will we

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he does not consider Iran to be Saudi Arabia’s rival or 'equal'

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Lambeth Palace, London, Britain, March 8, 2018. Yui Mok / Reuters
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Lambeth Palace, London, Britain, March 8, 2018. Yui Mok / Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his country would obtain a nuclear bomb if Iran develops an atomic weapon.

“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,” he told CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell in an interview set to air on Sunday’s 60 Minutes.

Crown Prince Mohammed, who had previously compared Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to Adolf Hitler, said he stands by that statement.

“No doubt,” he said. “Because [Khamanei] 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.

“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 32-year-old Crown Prince also said that he does not consider Iran to be Saudi Arabia’s rival or “equal”.

“Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world,” he said. “The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.”

The interview with Crown Prince Mohammed will be the first with a Saudi leader for a US television networks since 2005.

Saudi Arabia is stepping up plans to develop a nuclear energy capability as part of a reform plan to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.

The kingdom has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses. The government approved a national policy for its atomic energy programme on Tuesday, including limiting all nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, within the limits defined by international treaties.

The US, South Korea, Russia, France and China are bidding on a multibillion dollar tender to build Saudi Arabia's first two nuclear reactors.

Reactors need uranium enriched to around five per cent purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level. This has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, which enriches uranium domestically.

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