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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 04:23 GMT
Iran nuclear bid 'fault of West'
By Frank Gardner
BBC security correspondent

Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal

Saudi Arabia has said the West is partly to blame for the current nuclear stand-off with Iran because it allowed Israel to develop nuclear weapons.

The Saudi foreign minister told the BBC statements made by Iran's president were "extreme" but that diplomacy was the way to resolve the crisis.

Prince Saud al-Faisal was giving a rare interview while in London for a two-day terrorism conference.

He has chosen this visit to call for a nuclear-free zone in the Gulf.

Prince Saud told the BBC that the West was partly responsible for the current stand-off with Iran over its nuclear policy because, he said, it had helped Israel develop its own nuclear arsenal.

Sept 2002: Work begins on Iran's first reactor at Bushehr
Dec 2002: Satellites reveal Arak and Natanz sites, triggering IAEA inspections
Nov 2003: Iran suspends uranium enrichment and allows tougher inspections
June 2004: IAEA rebukes Iran for not fully co-operating
Nov 2004: Iran suspends enrichment under deal with EU
Aug 2005: Iran rejects EU plan and re-opens Isfahan plant
Jan 2006: Iran re-opens Natanz facility

But when asked how Saudi Arabia would respond if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, he ruled out joining the nuclear arms race.

He said nuclear weapons benefited no-one and that if Iran were ever to use them against Israel, it would end up killing Palestinians.

The Saudi foreign minister also called on the UK and other countries to back a Saudi initiative to set up an international counter-terrorism centre.

He said progress had been made in tackling al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia but that his government was concerned about the return of Saudi militants who had been fighting in Iraq.

Gaining the support of the public was crucial, he said, in winning the fight against terrorism.

On the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Prince Saud said he planned to thank Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday for Britain's role, which he called both constructive and important.

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