- Saudi Arabia appears to be seeking nuclear weapons in
a devastating blow for non-proliferation efforts in one of the most heavily-armed
regions in the world, it emerged last night.
- Suspicions that the Saudis were planning to buy nuclear
weapons technology were raised privately in diplomatic circles after the
kingdom's defence minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, toured Pakistan's
secret nuclear facilities in May.
- The prince toured the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant
and missile factory with Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and was
briefed by A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's atom bomb.
- Concern was underlined yesterday when a senior British
official spoke of of "concern" that Saudi Arabia, the most powerful
state in the Gulf, may be seeking to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.
- Peter Hain, the junior foreign officer minister, has
been given an expanded brief including nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation.
Last year's Indo-Pakistani tests and the recent tension over Kashmir have
added to long-standing worries about North Korea and Iran.
- "Proliferation has got to be pushed up the agenda
in the interests of everyone," the official said. "What is happening
is very serious."
- Israel, with a nuclear capacity of between 100 and 200
warheads, and the ballistic missiles to deliver them, has kept western
governments informed about the nuclear potential of arab and Muslim states.
- India is expressing concern about Pakistan developing
an "islamic bomb" and North Korea is threatening to test-fire
a new long-range missile and abandon its agreement to freeze its nuclear
- The Kahuta site is so sensitive that the former Pakistani
prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said she was not able to visit the installation
during her time in office.
- President Clinton is reported to have raised the issue
of the spread of nuclear weapons with Sharif when he visited Washington
last month for talks on the India-Pakistan crisis over Kashmir.
- Diplomatic sources said there was concern Saudi Arabia,
the world's biggest oil producer, might have agreed to finance the Pakistani
effort and might try to buy missiles and nuclear know-how.
- Pakistan is desperate for for financial aid to prop up
its ailing economy.