US President Donald Trump, flanked by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia .
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is in talks with Saudi Arabia over a deal that would allow Riyadh to enrich and reprocess uranium domestically in exchange for the US building nuclear reactors there.
The negotiations appear pressing, as the White House directed US Energy Secretary Rick Perry to cancel planned travel to India for talks in London with his Saudi counterpart.
State Department officials are in parallel talks with European governments over the future of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, which allows that country to enrich uranium domestically under UN supervision.
American companies, including Westinghouse Electric Corporation, are interested in building reactors in the Saudi kingdom, US media reported this week. In light of the Iran deal, Riyadh has repeatedly previewed its interest in matching Tehran’s nuclear capacity and has announced plans to build up to 16 nuclear power plants over the next 20 years.
The Obama administration, which negotiated the Iran deal, opposed the nuclearization of other powers in the region at the time. At a Camp David summit on the pending nuclear agreement in 2015 with Gulf Arab nations, Ben Rhodes, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, told The Jerusalem Post
that Tehran’s path to nuclear power should not be seen as a model for others.
But the dueling negotiations – over the nuclear capacities of two rival regional powers – may be a tool of leverage for the Trump administration, as it works to coax Europe into a new round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Critics of the Iran deal questioned why the US would ever agree to grant Tehran a “right to enrich,” after it had violated several UN resolutions and commitments barring certain nuclear activities. The Saudi deal would similarly allow Riyadh to enrich uranium on its own, according to reports, although details of the negotiations have not been confirmed on record by Saudi or US officials.
The Netanyahu government, which vociferously opposes the Iran deal, has not commented on the reported Saudi talks.
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