Now that Iran has a nuclear program, other Middle East countries want nuclear power, something that will probably result in a nuclear race in the region, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
"Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors," the newspaper said.
"Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant and Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear program," the newspaper said.
"The rules have changed. Everybody's going for nuclear programs," King Abdullah II of Jordan was quoted as saying recently to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The Mideast countries say they only want atomic power. But U.S. government and private analysts say they believe that the rush of activity is also intended to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran.
With Shiite Iran increasingly ascendant in the region, Sunni countries have alluded to other motives. At a meeting of Arab leaders in March, officials from 21 governments in and around the Middle East warned that Iran's drive for atomic technology could result in the beginning of "a grave and destructive nuclear arms race in the region."
Intelligence agencies and nuclear experts were quoted as estimating that Iran is two to 10 years away from having the means to make a uranium-based bomb.
Iran says its uranium enrichment work is entirely peaceful and meant only to fuel reactors.