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Monday, August 28, 2006

Jordan prince warns over Mideast arms race

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE | Mon, August 28th, 2006, 12:43

TOKYO: Iran could trigger a nuclear arms race if it develops an atomic bomb as the West fears, Prince Hassan of Jordan warned Monday, urging Asian nations to become more involved in the Middle East.

"Iran is simply too important for political, economic, cultural and religious as well as military reasons to be treated lightly by any state in the Middle East or indeed Asia," he told reporters in a speech in Tokyo.

"I would think that the development of nuclear weapons by Iran would begin a nuclear arms race, or resume the nuclear arms race, with many countries ... considering going down that path," said the prince.

"I cannot see any benefit from adding a new militarised power to the region armed with nuclear weapons," said the former crown prince, who was in Japan for a conference on religion and peace.

He called on Asian nations to play a greater role to help bring peace to the strife-torn Middle East.

"I, for one, cannot understand why Japan as a major client of oil from the region, and indeed China for example, cannot work behind the scenes with the great powers and the regional powers, in encouraging the development of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone to preserve the world's energy," he said.

Japan relies heavily on foreign energy and imports nearly all of its oil, mostly from the volatile Middle East, including Iran.

Iran said Sunday that it was determined to produce its own nuclear fuel, just four days before a UN Security Council deadline to freeze the sensitive work or face the risk of sanctions.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid the first visit to the Middle East by any Japanese premier for 11 years last month to urge dialogue.
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