Saudi Arabia has offered to head a consortium of Gulf states in a uranium enrichment program which could supply all the nations of the region - including Iran - with fuel for their nuclear power industries.
U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states are willing to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran to defuse Tehran's stand-off with the West over its nuclear plan, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister told a magazine on Thursday.Whatever else they are, the Saudis aren't daft. Nuclear power is going to become the generation source of choice for more and more nations - especially oil-producing ones, who would rather sell that blck gold to the world than burn it themselves. Bush and the big nuclear powers - especially France, Britain and Russia - were trying to set themselves up a lucrative uranium enrichment cartel which goes by the name of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP. The Saudis obviously feel that if anyone should be the world's new OPEC, it should be the old OPEC.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries -- Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates -- share Western concerns that Iran's nuclear energy program will lead to it acquiring atomic bombs, a claim Tehran denies.
"We have proposed a solution, which is to create a consortium for all users of enriched uranium in the Middle East," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED).
"The U.S. is not involved, but I don't think it (would be) hostile to this, and it would resolve a main area of tension between the West and Iran," he told the London-based weekly.
"(We will) do it in a collective manner through a consortium that will distribute according to needs, give each plant its own necessary amount, and ensure no use of this enriched uranium for atomic weapons," Prince Saud said, according to MEED's Web site.
Prince Saud, speaking on Thursday during a visit to Britain, said Iran was considering the offer, which envisages building a plant in a neutral country.
"We believe it should be in a neutral country -- Switzerland, for instance," said Prince Saud. "Any plant in the Middle East that needs enriched uranium would get its quota. I don't think other Arab states would refuse. In fact ... other Arab countries have expressed a desire to be part of the proposal."
"They (Iran) have responded that it is an interesting idea and they will come back to us. We hope the Iranians will accept this proposal. We continue to talk to them and urge them not only to look at the issue from the perspective of the needs of Iran for energy, but also in the interests of the security of the region."
Meanwhile, this plan does indeed address much of the spin from the White House on Iran's nuclear power program. I expect the folks at Burn's office will be working late in the coming weeks trying to come up with a reason for saying "no" that doesn't transparently translate to "but...the money!" The folks in the Fourth Branch will be cursing their supposed Saudi Allies (so much for Cheney's visit) and trying to come up with reasons to say "no" that don't transparently translate us "but...the war!"