UAE to US lawmaker: We have a right to enrich uranium, too

Amid fears of an atomic arms race in the Middle East, a senior United Arab Emirates official tells a top US lawmaker that it too might seek the right to enrich uranium that Iran has asserted under the recently signed nuclear deal.

The Iran accord to curb its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic sanctions relief allows Tehran to enrich uranium. In barely noticed testimony last month, Rep. Ed Royce (R-California), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, informed him in a telephone call that the country no longer feels bound by its previous nuclear agreement with the United States.

UAE ambassador in Washington Yousef al-Otaiba, September 18, 2014. (UAE embassy website)
UAE ambassador in Washington Yousef al-Otaiba, September 18, 2014. (UAE Embassy website)

“He told me, ‘Your worst enemy has achieved this right to enrich. It’s a right to enrich now that your friends are going to want, too, and we won’t be the only country,'” Royce says in a phone interview with The Associated Press this week, elaborating on his testimony.

In a 2009 pact with the UAE, the United States agreed to share materials, technology and equipment for producing nuclear energy. In the accord — known as a 123 Agreement — the UAE made a bold pledge not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel to extract plutonium, two pathways to an atomic weapon.

Asked to respond, the UAE Embassy in Washington sent a one-sentence email that said the “government has not formally changed its views or perspective on the 123 Agreement or commitments.” The UAE has said in the past that it welcomes the nuclear deal reached with Iran.

— AP

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