WASHINGTON: Likening Iran’s leader to Adolf Hitler, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince warned in a US television interview that if Tehran gets a nuclear weapon, his country will follow suit.
“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,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an excerpt of the interview that aired Thursday on CBS This Morning.
The 32-year-old Prince Mohammed said he has referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “the new 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,” Prince Mohammed said.
“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.”
The interview is scheduled to run on CBS’s 60 Minutes show on Sunday, two days before the crown prince’s scheduled White House meeting with US President Donald Trump.
His comments come amid concerns over nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and just days after the kingdom put an atomic energy programme on a fast track.
Although intended to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, analysts warn the capacity to produce atomic energy could open a pathway to nuclear development for military purposes.
A 2015 nuclear agreement has placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme, but Trump has expressed a desire to scrap it, making its future uncertain.
The Saudi cabinet says its nuclear programme will be in “full compliance with the principle of transparency” and meet nuclear safety standards “in accordance with an independent regulatory and supervisory framework.”
The country has accelerated plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades, according to officials and analysts, at a cost of around $80 billion.
Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al Faleh said in October that the nuclear programme would start by building two reactors, each producing between 1.2 and 1.6 gigawatts of electricity.