Energy Minister Opposed to Idea of Civilian Saudi Nuclear Program

israel coalition government
Energy Minister Yisrael Katz. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) – Energy Minister Yisrael Katz voiced opposition on Monday to the idea of Saudi Arabia developing a civilian nuclear program as part of any U.S.-mediated forging of relations between the countries.

The New York Times reported in March that such a program was among Riyadh’s conditions for a normalization deal with Israel. Saudi and U.S. officials have not confirmed that.

Pointing to precedents like Iraq and Libya, Israel has long worried that potentially hostile neighbors could use civilian nuclear energy and other projects developed under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as cover for clandestine bomb-making.

“Naturally, Israel does not encourage such things. I don’t think Israel should agree to such things,” Katz told Yediot when asked about a prospective Saudi civilian nuclear program as part of possible bilateral ties.

Israel said last week it expected to be consulted by Washington on any U.S.-Saudi deal affecting its national security. Israel, which is outside the voluntary NPT and has no nuclear energy, is widely believed to have atomic weaponry.

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