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Prince Turki al-Faisal calls for stronger Gulf bloc, says Saudi may join nuke arms race

Prince Turki al-Faisal, chief of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, on Monday called on Gulf states to make the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) a powerful regional bloc with a unified armed force and a unified defense industry, a Saudi daily reported.

Prince Turki, who has been intensively engaged in public diplomacy across the world, also urged GCC leaders and decision-makers at “The Gulf and the Globe” conference in Riyadh to transform the 30-year-old regional bloc into a strong “union of sovereign states,” the Arab News reported.

“We can create a unified Arabian Peninsula, an elected Shoura Council, a unified armed force with a unified defense industry. We can also achieve an economic system with a unified currency, set up a unified space agency, a unified IT industry, a unified aerospace industry, an automotive industry, an educational system with a unified curriculum, a unified energy and petrochemical industry and a unified justice system,” Prince Turki was quoted as saying by the Arab News.

Referring to the achievements of the GCC, he said that there was a need to reevaluate the position in the context of rapid changes taking place around the world, especially in the Middle East. “Why shouldn’t this Gulf grouping become a union of sovereign states to move forward with a unified unity of purpose?” he said.

In his speech, he supported the idea of Gulf countries acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) if Israel and Iran do not roll back their nuclear programs and identified 11 major fields in which GCC countries can unify their efforts and positions to make the Gulf body a force to reckon with.

“But, if our efforts and the efforts of the world community fail to bring about the dismantling of the Israeli arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and preventing Iran from acquiring the same, then why shouldn’t we at least study seriously all available options, including acquiring WMDs, so that our future generations will not blame us for neglecting any courses of action that will keep looming dangers away from us,” he noted, according to the Saudi English-language daily.

Israel is widely held to possess hundreds of nuclear missiles, which it neither confirms nor denies, while the West accuses Iran of seeking an atomic bomb, a charge the Islamic republic rejects.

Riyadh, which has repeatedly voiced fears about the nuclear threat posed by Shiite-dominated Iran and denounced Israel’s atomic capacity, has stepped up efforts to develop its own nuclear power for “peaceful use.”

Abdul Ghani Malibari, coordinator at the Saudi civil nuclear agency, said in June that Riyadh plans to build 16 civilian nuclear reactors in the next two decades at a cost of 300 billion riyals ($80 billion), according to AFP.

He said the Sunni kingdom would launch an international invitation to tender for the reactors to be used in power generation and desalination in the desert kingdom.

The United Nations has imposed successive packages of sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Those measures have been backed up by unilateral Western sanctions.