Friday, December 15, 2006

Rice questions why Saudi might need nuclear energy

WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday she wanted to know more about Gulf states' plans to study nuclear power and questioned why Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, might need atomic energy.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council said on Sunday it would study a joint civil atomic program, raising concerns the Arab states may want to protect themselves if Iran acquires nuclear weapons and sparking fears of a regional arms race.


While the group said the program would be aimed at meeting energy needs, Rice
was skeptical.

"I think one would have to wonder about the need of some states for nuclear power given their own energy resources," she added. "It's one thing for a state to be running out of natural gas in 34 years, which is the case of Egypt. It is quite another for the state to be the most oil-rich state in the world," she added in a reference to Saudi Arabia.

"I think there is no reason not to discuss it," she added, saying U.S. President
George W. Bush has been a proponent of nuclear power provided there are safeguards to limit the risk of proliferation.

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