The Saudi Arabian cabinet has decided to approve the country's agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the protocols and application of safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported.
The Saudis established their Atomic Energy Research Institute, based outside the capital Riyadh, in 1988 to conduct research for peaceful purposes. While Saudi Arabia's northern neighbor Iran has been accused of using its nuclear program to manufacture weapons grade uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, no such allegation has been raised against the Saudis, who also lack the missiles to launch a nuclear bomb.
In December 2006 Saudi Arabia, together with the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman - announced that they were setting up a commission to study the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For technical expertise most of GCC countries turned to France and not their traditional ally, the US.
While it might seem strange that the world's largest producer of oil and the one believed to have the largest oil reserve would need nuclear power to supply the county with electricity, many analysts say that with crude oil prices at record levels it makes economic sense to sell the oil abroad and use nuclear power at home.
Meanwhile, during a visit to Iran by Algerian President 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bouteflika the possibility of establishing a cartel to control the production of natural gas was once again raised. There have previously been discussions among various countries to set up the equivalent of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for natural gas, but so far the plan has not materialized.
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