Saudi Arabia will rapidly acquire a nuclear weapon if arch-rival Iran develops one, the country’s Crown Prince has warned.
Mohammed bin Salman said the Saudis ‘do not want’ nukes but would be forced to develop them should their Shia counterparts acquire them first.
The 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne made the comments in an interview in which he also likened Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to Hitler.
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,’ Salman told CBS in an interview that will air on Sunday.
The comment came after he was asked about remarks in which he described Khamenei as ‘the new Hitler of the Middle East’.
Salman said he stood by the remark, adding: ‘[Khamenei] 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 realize how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened.
‘I don’t want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.’
Saudi Arabia is already stepping up plans to develop nuclear energy as part of reforms being led by Salman that aim to end the region’s dependence on oil.
Salman likened Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to Hitler in the same interview, saying he wants to expand his influence over the Middle East
The United States, South Korea, Russia, France and China are already bidding on a multi-billion dollar tender to build Saudi Arabia’s first two nuclear reactors.
The world’s top oil exporter has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses.
However, it has not made it clear whether it plans to develop the capacity to enrich uranium in order to produce fuel, or whether it will acquire this from overseas.
Enriched uranium can also be used to create nuclear warheads.
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.
Reactors need uranium enriched to around five per cent purity to function but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level.
This process has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, which enriches uranium domestically.