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Saudi Arabia will create nuclear bomb, if Iran does: Crown prince

Crown prince also reiterated comparison of Iran's supreme leader to Hitler
The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran in 2010 (Reuters)

In his first interview with US television, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says his country will develop a nuclear bomb if Iran does so.

"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," MBS told CBS in an interview that will air on Sunday. 

In a preview of the interview, released on Thursday, the crown prince is asked why he compares Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Adolf Hitler.

“Because he wants to expand. He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time,” he says.

“Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.”

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi reacted strongly, saying the Saudi crown prince was a "delusional naive person," Iranian state TV reported on Thursday.

"He has no idea of politics apart from bitter talk that emanates from a lack of foresight ... His remarks do not deserve a response, because he is a delusional, naive person, who never talks, but with lies and bitterness," Qasemi said.

The 32-year-old crown prince, who is overseeing a raft of "modernising" reforms in the kingdom, originally compared Iran’s supreme leader to the Nazi leader in an interview with the New York Times in November.

"We learned from Europe that appeasement doesn't work. We don't want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East," the newspaper quoted him as saying in an opinion article headlined "Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, at last".

The kingdom, locked in a tussle for influence with Iran across the Middle East and beyond, is stepping up plans to develop a nuclear energy capability as part of a reform plan led by Prince Mohammed to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.

The United States, South Korea, Russia, France and China are bidding on a multi-billion dollar tender to build Saudi Arabia's first two nuclear reactors.

The world's top oil exporter has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses but has left unclear whether it also wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel, a process which can also be used in the production of atomic weapons.

The government approved a national policy for its atomic energy programme on Tuesday, including limiting all nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, within the limits defined by international treaties.

Reactors need uranium enriched to around five percent purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level. This has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival which enriches uranium domestically.

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