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U.S., Saudi Arabia Mull Nuclear Talks
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Daniel Horner

The United States has offered to send a team of officials to Saudi Arabia to “discuss elements” of an agreement for nuclear cooperation and “the process by which it would be negotiated,” a Department of State official said in an Aug. 22 interview.

The schedule for the proposed meeting and any follow-up has not been determined, the official said.

Under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, nuclear cooperation agreements are a prerequisite for U.S. nuclear trade.

A key issue in any future Saudi-U.S. nuclear talks is expected to be the Persian Gulf state’s willingness to accept constraints on its ability to enrich uranium or separate plutonium from spent fuel.

In a May 2008 memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation with the United States, Saudi Arabia “stated its intent to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies,” according to a State Department press statement at the time. Earlier this year, however, The Guardian quoted a senior Saudi official as saying, “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t.”