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Wednesday, February 23, 2011     GET REAL

Key Saudi doubts effectiveness of Iran sanctions

LONDON — Saudi Arabia has cast doubts over the effectiveness of international sanctions against Iran's nuclear program.


A senior Saudi adviser has expressed concern that United Nations and Western sanctions were insufficient to halt Iran's drive toward nuclear weapons. Instead, the adviser, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal, called for a nuclear-free zone throughout the Middle East, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The Middle East cannot afford the competition that a nuclear Iran would cause," Turki said. "And the high risks of any military action should force us to look at the diplomatic route."

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In a forum at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Turki said a regional effort would be more effective than just targeting Iran. He cited the 2010 review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and said Riyad wanted a military option against any Middle East country that does not submit to international nuclear inspections.

"The other provision would be for sanctions against any country which refuses to sign up to the plan, and that could include diplomatic and economic activity, but would also include the military option in the end," Turki, who reflects the Saudi leadership, said. "Any country that does not join a nuclear free Middle East will face sanctions."

A former senior U.S. official objected to the Saudi plan. Richard Haas, now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that diplomacy could no longer stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"The technology is going a lot faster than any diplomacy," Haas said. "Iran will be able to have weapons long before any diplomacy has a chance to work. The timelines are quite short. Force is a serious option."

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