Sunday 16 May 2021
News ID: 89281
Publish Date: 17 April 2021 - 21:30

WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- A group of U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that seeks to stop the possibility of Saudi Arabia from obtaining a nuclear weapon, after reports surfaced last year that a third country had secretly assisted Riyadh to expand its nuclear program.
The bill, titled The Saudi WMD Act, aims to "take steps to impede access to sensitive technologies that could pave the way to Saudi Arabia acquiring a nuclear weapon,” according to a press release announcing the legislation.
It was introduced in the Senate by senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, and fielded in the House of Representatives by congressmen Ted Lieu and Joaquin Castro.
"Nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists and rogue regimes is one of the gravest threats to the security of the American people and to our partners around the world,” Merkley said in a statement.
"If Saudi Arabia is working to undermine the global nonproliferation and arms control regime, with the help of China or anybody else, the U.S. must respond.”
Markey said the bill requires greater transparency into Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build out a ballistic missile and nuclear program.
If passed, the measure would require the Biden administration to determine whether any foreign person or country has transferred or exported to Saudi Arabia a Category One item under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an informal political understanding that aims to limit the amount of missile proliferation worldwide.
A Category One item would include unmanned aerial vehicle systems such as ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and target drones that are capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kg to a range of at least 300 km.
If such an entity is found, the bill would require the White House to sanction them.
The bill would also terminate "most U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia” if it was found that the kingdom received help in building a nuclear fuel cycle facility not under the standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Saudi Arabia has not signed up to the same restrictions to nuclear proliferation that other countries have, and the country has only a limited safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
The increasing nuclear partnerships between Saudi Arabia and China have been a cause of concern for the US. Last August, American intelligence agencies had been assessing reports that China is secretly helping Saudi Arabia expand its nuclear program.
The agencies analyzed suspected collaboration between
the two countries at an undeclared site in the kingdom, close to a solar-panel production area.
The Wall Street Journal also reported last summer that another undisclosed site in the country’s northwest was being used to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, a further step towards the development of nuclear fuel that could put the kingdom on a path to developing nuclear weapons.
A month later, the Guardian reported that Saudi Arabia likely has enough mineable uranium ore reserves to pave the way for the domestic production of nuclear fuel, citing a confidential report by Chinese geologists.
Under the previous Donald Trump administration, the U.S. had given several authorizations to American companies to share sensitive nuclear power information.

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