The United States signed a civil-use nuclear development pact with Saudi Arabia.
The memorandum of understanding, signed May 16, aims at developing “environmentally sustainable, safe, and secure civilian nuclear energy through a series of complementary agreements,” a State Department statement said.
The Bush administration is encouraging moderate Arab Middle Eastern allies to sign such pacts to prevent Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program from launching a regional arms race.
The same day the Saudis signed the pact, they also agreed to join the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative, international collaborations aimed at stemming the illicit trade and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
One powerful Republican in Congress said the strategy carried risks.
“Even as the Bush administration is attempting to prevent oil-rich Iran from acquiring the means to manufacture nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful nuclear energy program, its policy is to help Saudi Arabia develop that same capacity,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement May 22.
“The administration must immediately stop pursuing new nuclear cooperation agreements with unstable regimes in the Middle East. Instead, it must conduct a sober and thorough review of the potential consequences of that policy for vital U.S. national interests before the damage becomes irreversible.”