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US bill would restrain Saudi Arabia from developing nuclear weapons: Report

Murder of Jamal Khashoggi prompts Democratic congressman to introduce bill limiting US sales of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia
House of Representatives bill may drastically limit sales of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia (AFP)

A US democratic congressman will introduce a bill in the House of Representatives that would severely limit nuclear technology trade with Saudi Arabia, according to a Vox report on Friday.

Congressman Brad Sherman’s bill, titled “No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act of 2018”, would not only prohibit the kingdom’s construction of nuclear weapons from the material it buys from the US, it would also force Saudi Arabia to uphold a number of strict regulations to ensure that classified material regarding US nuclear technology does not get leaked.

“I don’t think this bill would’ve passed prior to the events in Istanbul. Now I think we have a chance,” Sherman told Vox.

The Istanbul events Sherman referred to took place on 2 October when Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered after entering Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.

It remains unknown when Sherman’s bill will be brought to the floor for a vote, but it will probably be after the new Democratic-controlled House of Representatives convenes on 3 January 2019.

Khashoggi’s slaying has tarnished the image of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has been under heavy scrutiny over a possible role in the assassination, which the kingdom has strongly denied.

MBS previously said in March that the kingdom does not want to produce a nuclear weapon, but it will if their arch-rival Iran develops one.

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“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,” he told CBS’s 60 Minutes.

The Saudis' story about Khashoggi's slaying has changed repeatedly since it happened, with the country's public prosecutor saying last week that it was premeditated.

In light of Khashoggi's death, on 1 November five Republican US senators called on President Donald Trump to suspend talks to reach a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

The killing of Khashoggi raises questions about the current thinking of Saudi decision-makers, they said.

“The ongoing revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability and judgment of current decision-makers in Saudi Arabia,” the letter reads.

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