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Saudi Arabia: If Iran builds nukes, so will we

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Mideast watchers probably could have seen this coming: A Saudi Arabian official has warned that his country will not tolerate losing a nuclear arms race to Iran.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, a senior official in Riyadh said: "We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."

The official was clarifying remarks made by Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, at a NATO meeting in the U.K. Turki had said, according to a transcript obtained by The Guardian, that if Iran were to build a nuclear weapon, that "would compel Saudi Arabia ... to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences."

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The senior official, whom The Guardian did not identify and who works for Turki, was speaking to clarify his boss' remarks.

Iran has repeatedly denied it is attempting to build nuclear weapons, and said that its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful, energy production purposes. To that end, Saudi Arabia has also said it would "reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear program," the Guardian reports.

While Iran's denials of its nuclear weapons ambitions have come frequently, so too have the accusations to the contrary.

As recently as Wednesday, the U.K. accused Iran of secretly testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload, Reuters reports.

"Iran has ... been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in contravention of U.N. resolution 1929," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament.

Resolution 1929, passed by the U.N. Security Council a year ago, tightened sanctions against Iran imposed over its nuclear program, which Western countries say is aimed at building a weapon, Reuters reports.

Iran denied the claim.

The two heavyweight Middle Eastern countries have long cast themselves in regional affairs as opposing powers. Iran frequently accuses Saudi Arabia of unfairly supporting Sunni Muslim causes in the region, and the Saudis in turn accuse Iran of negatively engaging in pro-Shiite Muslim affairs, especially in Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain.

Now, their ethnically-grounded conflict threatens to take on Cold War dimensions, especially if Western accusations over Iran's nuclear ambitions prove to be true.

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