From Yahoo News:
RIYADH (Reuters) — Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter and a key U.S. ally, said on Wednesday that the kingdom does not see any obstacle to cooperating with Russia on developing a nuclear energy program.
“There is no obstacle to cooperate with Russia on… nuclear energy,” Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference.
Analysts said the plan by Sunni bastion Saudi Arabia is a warning shot to Shi’ite Iran that it could enter the regional arms race and start developing nuclear capability.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday during a visit to Saudi Arabia that his country would consider helping the kingdom with a possible atomic energy program.
“On nuclear energy, there was a (Russian) contact with the kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he said when asked if Saudi Arabia and Russia had made any agreements.
Saudi Arabia and fellow GCC members Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, said in December they would study embarking on a joint civil atomic program.
The announcement by the GCC, a loose economic and political alliance, raised concern of a regional arms race with analysts saying the Arab bloc wanted to match Iran’s nuclear program.
The question of whether GCC members can develop civil nuclear power without spinning off a nuclear weapons program is a controversial one. Most analysts see nuclear programs as a threat to world peace, because the temptation of developing weapons is so great. As we saw in the recent deal with North Korea, nuclear programs can be used to bribe other countries for free energy. This may actually increase the incentive to start nuclear programs. Russia blames the United States for kicking off a global arms race, but seems to be participating in that arms race by offering nuclear support to GCC nations. A solution that would make everyone happy would be the development of thorium nuclear reactors, which can produce electricity without making the sort of enriched uranium that can be used in a bomb. Thorium reactors are a 50 year old technology, well within the reach of these countries, given Russian assistance.