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Egypt warns of Mideast nuclear arms race

world Updated: Sep 26, 2009 12:19 IST
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Egypt's foreign minister has warned that a nuclear-capable Israel and an Iran pursuing nuclear weapons could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday that Iran has a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy but it must be verified.

If the existence of a new uranium plant was kept secret, he said, "that will shed doubts, of course, on the credibility of the Iranian position, no doubt about it."

Iran kept the facility hidden from weapons inspectors until a letter it sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a news conference yesterday that the facility is part of its peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy, which is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

He said the facility will be operational in 18 months and his country has complied with IAEA rules that require it to inform the UN nuclear agency six months in advance. But the IAEA in the past has rejected Iran's contention, saying it is required to send notification at the outset of any nuclear-related project.

Aboul Gheit stressed that every country has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and Egypt have all talked about establishing nuclear energy programs, and the US has said it is willing to help them.