MADRID (AFP) – Saudi King Abdullah called for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear standoff and upheld Tehran’s right to civilian use of nuclear energy in an interview published Monday in Spain.
“A nuclear programme in the region is an extra weight on her shoulders,” the king told El Pais in an interview published as he opened a week-long European tour.
“Our position is primarily reflected in our support for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and in work for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian issue, well away from the tension and nervousness which dominate the current language” of the parties concerned, the king said.
King Abdullah showed sympathy for Tehran’s stance in opining that “all countries have a right to peaceful use of nuclear energy in accord with the norms of the International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA).”
But he added, in a thinly-veiled reference to Israel, that “the criterion be applied to all countries in the region without exception.”
Abdullah said he was “greatly concerned” by the situation in the Middle East.
“My fears are similar to those of all reasonable people: That the pursuit of all these conflicts produces a flare-up which does not limit itself to the region but takes on a global dimension,” he declared.
The king was to meet King Juan Carlos later Monday and later hold talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in the first official visit by a Saudi leader in 27 years.
On Thursday, Abdullah is expected in Paris, ahead of a conference aimed at ending the crippling political deadlock in Lebanon, a former French colony, before heading to Poland.
On the way home the king will also visit Egypt and Jordan, according to Saudi diplomatic sources.