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Friday, April 18, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Prospect of Iran nukes frightens Saudi royals
'to their core'

WASHINGTON — A U.S. report projects a concerted effort by Saudi Arabia to match Iran's nuclear weapons program.

The report, submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took note of a U.S. assessment that Teheran's nuclear program frightens the Saudi royal family "to their core."

"The future Middle East landscape may include a number of nuclear armed or nuclear weapons-capable states vying for influence in a notoriously unstable region," the report, released in early April 2008, said.

The report, ordered by ranking Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, was authored by staff member Bradley Bowman, Middle East Newsline reported. The assessment on Saudi nuclear plans was based on discussions with senior U.S. diplomats in Riyad.

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Saudi Arabia would be followed by other Middle East states bent on producing or acquiring nuclear weapons, the report said. The report, based on interviewing hundreds of analysts, diplomats in Washington and the Middle East in the last half of 2007, cited Turkey.

In contrast, Egypt would not develop a nuclear weapons program, the report said. Bowman said such a program would encounter strong opposition from Israel and the United States.

The report warned Congress that U.S. credibility in the region was being eroded amid Iran's nuclear program. Bowman said the United States must take steps to restore its credibility with Turkey and Arab allies by 2010.

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