Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons to match regional rivals Israel and Iran, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said on Monday.
“Our efforts and those of the world have failed to convince Israel to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iran… therefore it is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these weapons,” Faisal told a security forum in Riyadh.
“A (nuclear) disaster befalling one of us would affect us all,” said Faisal.
Israel is widely held to possess hundreds of nuclear missiles, which it neither confirms nor denies, while the West accuses Iran of seeking an atomic bomb, a charge the Islamic republic rejects.
Riyadh, which has repeatedly voiced fears about the nuclear threat posed by Shiite-dominated Iran and denounced Israel’s atomic capacity, has stepped up efforts to develop its own nuclear power for “peaceful use.”
Abdul Ghani Malibari, coordinator at the Saudi civil nuclear agency, said in June that Riyadh plans to build 16 civilian nuclear reactors in the next two decades at a cost of 300 billion riyals ($80 billion).
He said the Sunni kingdom would launch an international invitation to tender for the reactors to be used in power generation and desalination in the desert kingdom.
The United Nations has imposed successive packages of sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Those measures have been backed up by unilateral Western sanctions.