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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jordan's king says Israel frustrates his nuclear ambitions

From AFP:
King Abdullah II on Wednesday accused Israel of disrupting Jordan's nuclear programme which is aimed at meeting its dire energy needs and powering water desalination plants, in an exclusive interview with AFP.

"Strong opposition to Jordan's nuclear energy programme is coming from Israel," the king said.

"When we started going down the road of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we approached some highly responsible countries to work with us. And pretty soon we realised that Israel was putting pressure on those countries to disrupt any cooperation with us."

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

"A Jordanian delegation would approach a potential partner, and one week later an Israeli delegation would be there, asking our interlocutors not to support Jordan's nuclear energy bid," Abdullah said during the interview at his palace.

Jordan, which imports 95 percent of its energy needs, is struggling to find alternatives to unstable Egyptian gas supplies, which normally cover 80 percent of the kingdom's power production.

Since 2011, the pipeline supplying gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan has been attacked 14 times, with a consequent disruption of supplies.

With desert covering 92 percent of its territory, the kingdom is one of the world's 10 driest countries and wants to use atomic energy to fire desalination plants to overcome its crippling water shortage.

"Nuclear energy will be the cheapest reliable way to desalinate water," the king said.
I don't think that Abdullah actively seeks a nuclear weapon, but the idea that a nuclear power plant would be used exclusively for desalination seems strange. While Japan and Russia do have nuclear desalination plants, as far as I know, the largest existing desalination plants are not nuclear-powered.

But even if we take the Abdullah at his word, there is no doubt that he wants to position himself properly in case there is a nuclear arms race in the Middle East because of Iran's ambitions to build a bomb.

And given that Jordan is one bullet away from becoming a hostile Islamist state, Israel's concerns over its generally reliable neighbor seem well-placed.

(h/t Yoel)