Mar 9, 2018

Scoop: Netanyahu told Trump he's concerned about U.S.-Saudi nuclear deal

Netanyahu and Trump meet in the Oval Office. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

During his meeting with President Trump at the White House on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised concerns over a possible deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to build nuclear reactors in the kingdom, Israeli officials told me.

Where things stand: The officials, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said Netanyahu asked Trump not to continue with the deal, but the message from Trump and his team was that if the U.S. doesn't sell the Saudis nuclear reactors other countries like Russia or France will.

Netanyahu and his aides stressed to the White House that if they move forward with the deal, they should should insist on a Saudi commitment not to enrich uranium on their soil.

Netanyahu's office didn't deny the details in this report, telling me in a statement:

"We don't comment on the contents of private diplomatic conversations, but as Prime Minister Netanyahu has been saying for years there are many dangers in the Iran nuclear deal — one of them is the demands of other countries in the region to get the same capabilities the deal allows Iran to have — including enrichment of uranium".

Trump didn't give Netanyahu a final answer on the nuclear deal with the Saudis and the parties concluded that further talks will take place between senior officials on both sides. The White House didn’t comment for this report.

  • On Wednesday, two days after the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, Israel's minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz met in Houston with his U.S. counterpart Rick Perry, who is negotiating the deal with the Saudis. Steinitz's spokeswoman told me she can't comment on the contents of the meeting.   
  • On Thursday, Netanyahu hinted about the talks with Trump during statements to the press at the UN headquarters in New-York. Netanyahu said:
"I was asked in Washington what is Israel's position on the requests of countries to enrich uranium. Countries in the Middle East. And I said, 'Why is it that they want to enrich uranium?' And they said that the reason that they're asking to enrich uranium is because Iran has received the right to enrich uranium under the dubious nuclear agreement. The best way to prevent the nuclearization of the Middle East is to either fully fix the Iran deal, or fully nix it. This is the only way to prevent the inevitable spread of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons into the Middle East".

Last Friday, Perry led a U.S. delegation for talks with his Saudi counterpart in London. The meeting in London launched negotiations on the deal, which is worth billions of dollars to American companies. The Saudis insist on the U.S. giving them a right to enrich uranium on their soil.

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