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Gulf states envoy to urge Iran to forgo nuclear arms

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, May 17 (Reuters) Gulf states will send an envoy to Iran shortly to try to persuade the Islamic republic to forgo nuclear weapons and encourage a peaceful resolution of its dispute with the international community, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said today.

Prince Saud al-Faisal endorsed a European proposal to offer Iran access to light-water nuclear power reactors as part of a package to induce Tehran to freeze a uranium enrichment program that the West suspects is aimed at making weapons. Tehran denies the charge.

''We're hoping a diplomatic solution would work and would allow us to have a third option rather than the two bad options that are there -- either atomic weapons in Iran or taking them out,'' he told reporters.

He said that in the next few days the Omani foreign minister would visit Tehran as an emissary of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

''Iran is looking for a leadership role in the region and one of the responsibilities of leadership is to work for the stability and security of the region and not to cause instability by adding a destabilizing issue like atomic weapons and proliferation,'' Saud said.

''We hope that we will have a hearing from the Iranians on this and they would join us in our policy of keeping the West Asia and Gulf region free from atomic weapons,'' he added.

Asked if he would object to Iran receiving light-water reactors, which are less susceptible to proliferation than other types, Saud said: ''No not at all. On the contrary, if they can reach (a diplomatic) agreement, that would be best.'' But he said that it is harder to argue against other West Asian countries having nuclear weapons when one country -- which he did not name but is presumably Israel -- already has that capability.

REUTERS KD BD2344

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