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Saudi Official Won't Rule Out Seeking Nuclear Bomb to Meet Iranian Threat

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks in Riyadh, Jan. 19, 2016.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks in Riyadh, Jan. 19, 2016.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has refused to rule out that it will seek a nuclear weapon if archrival Iran becomes a threat.

In an interview Tuesday, Reuters news agency asked Adel al-Jubeir whether Saudi Arabia would try to get a nuclear bomb if Iran obtained one, despite its agreement with six world powers. He responded that his country would do "whatever we need to do in order to protect our people."

Jubeir said the end of Western sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear agreement would be welcome if Iran uses unfrozen funds to improve the living standards of its people.

But he said if the funds "go to support the nefarious activities of the Iranian regime, this will be a negative and it will generate a pushback."

The Saudis, Israelis, and some American lawmakers opposed to the nuclear deal say they fear Iran may use the billions of dollars in unfrozen assets to fund terrorist groups and militias.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite majority Iran escalated earlier this month after the Saudis executed a Shi'ite cleric accused of supporting terrorism. Furious Iranians attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brushed off concerns the Saudis may try to get their hands on a nuclear weapon to counter a perceived Iranian threat.

"You just can't buy a bomb and transfer it," Kerry told CNN television this week, noting that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and international inspections would make such a thing very difficult.

He also said possessing a nuclear bomb would not make Saudi Arabia safer.

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