Middle East

Israel 'blocks' Jordan nuclear bid, King Abdullah says

King Abdullah June 2010
Image caption King Abdullah has accused Israel of "underhanded" actions

King Abdullah has accused Israel of trying to block Jordan from developing a peaceful nuclear programme.

He said Israel had been pressuring states like France and South Korea not to sell Jordan nuclear technology.

Israel, believed to be the only country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons, has denied the accusation.

High oil prices are pushing countries to consider nuclear energy, but the spread of the technology increases the risk of proliferation, analysts say.

'Underhanded'

In a lengthy interview in The Wall Street Journal, King Abdullah strongly criticised Israel for what he said were its efforts to persuade potential suppliers to abandon plans to sell Jordan nuclear power generating reactors, something Israel denies.

He said Israel's "underhanded" actions have helped bring Jordan-Israeli relations to their lowest point since a 1994 peace agreement.

"There are countries, Israel in particular, that are more worried about us being economically independent than the issue of nuclear energy," King Abdullah said. "There are many such reactors in the world and a lot more coming, so [the Israelis must] go mind their own business."

Jordan, with US backing, is determined to develop nuclear power to escape from its near total dependence upon imported oil.

It hopes that nuclear energy will provide up to 30% of its power needs by 2030.

The desert kingdom recently short-listed a French-Japanese consortium, as well a Canadian and a Russian company, to build its first nuclear plant, due to be operational by 2019.

The Obama administration, while supportive of Jordan's nuclear ambitions, is worried that the spread of nuclear power could open the door to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports.

So Washington wants to secure a nuclear agreement with Jordan under which the country would surrender its right to manufacture its own uranium fuel, our correspondent says.

That could prove a major sticking point between these two long-time allies, he adds.

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