Report: IAEA to help Arabs go nuclear

Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia say intentions peaceful.

iran nuclear 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuclear 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are all seeking nuclear technology, the British newspaper The Times reported Saturday morning. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the countries involved claimed they were only interested in building civilian nuclear energy programs, a goal which is permitted under international law. "Some Middle East states, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, have shown initial interest [in using] nuclear power primarily for desalination purposes," Tomihiro Taniguch, the deputy director-general of the IAEA, told the business weekly Middle East Economic Digest. He also added that after preliminary discussions with the governments, the IAEA would offer its support in helping to build the power plants, The Times reported. Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, pointed to Iran as sparking the sudden rush for nuclear technology. "If Iran was not on the path to a nuclear weapons capability you would probably not see this sudden rush [in the Arab world]," The Times quoted him as saying. While Egypt and other North African states can justify the technology as necessary in the face of high oil prices, others, such as Saudia Arabia, will have a more difficult time defending their decision. In addition to owning healthy reserves of oil, Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister, told The Times earlier this year that his country was opposed to the spread of nuclear power and weapons in the Arab world.