RIYADH - Fears that an Iranian nuclear weapon might trigger an atomic arms race across the Middle East are overplayed, a US security think tank said on Tuesday, arguing that countries like Saudi Arabia face big disincentives against getting the bomb.

Western powers believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian atomic electricity program, a charge Tehran denies.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is engaged in a fierce rivalry with Shi'ite power Iran and is seen in Western countries as the most likely Middle Eastern state to seek an atomic weapon if Iran did the same.

Analysts have also said an Iranian nuclear weapons capability might persuade Egypt and Turkey to seek a bomb too.

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