Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan in a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked him to help Riyadh construct a nuclear power plant, the Arab-language al-Qods al-Arabi newspaper quoted informed diplomatic sources in the Persian Gulf Arab littoral states as saying.
According to the report, Prince Bandar has told Putin that if Russia declares readiness in this regard, Saudi Arabia can provide Moscow with preliminary studies that it has conducted since six years ago.
Saudi Arabia and other members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) have been conducting nuclear studies and the PGCC secretariat has been in charge of these studies.
Last month, a report said that Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will.
“Earlier this year, a senior NATO decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery,” said Mark Urban, the diplomatic and defense editor of BBC’s Newsnight program.
In October, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that the Saudis already paid for a nuclear bomb, “they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to this end”.
Gary Samore, who was President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser until March, said, “I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan”.
The report said the story of Saudi Arabia’s project – including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges – goes back decades.
In the late 1980s, the Saudis secretly bought dozens of CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China, the report said. These rockets, considered by many experts too inaccurate for use as conventional weapons, were deployed 20 years ago.
“It has also been clear for many years that Saudi Arabia has given generous financial assistance to Pakistan’s defense sector, including, Western experts allege, to its missile and nuclear labs. Visits by the then Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud to the Pakistani nuclear research center in 1999 and 2002 underlined the closeness of the defense relationship,” the report said.
It said some experts think it is a cash-and-carry deal for warheads while others believe it is an arrangement whereby Pakistani nuclear forces could be deployed in the Kingdom.
However, Samore was quoted as saying that giving Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons would be a “very provocative action”.