RIYADH (AFP) – The White House announced major new cooperation agreements with Saudi Arabia on Friday as US President George W. Bush made his second visit to the oil superpower this year.
The agreements cover cooperation on civil nuclear power and protecting the kingdom’s oil infrastructure which has come under attack by Islamist militants.
“The Saudis bear a special responsibility for protecting key energy facilities of global importance and the world benefits from their abundant energy supplies,” a White House statement said.
“Our global economy depends greatly on Saudi Arabian energy. The United States has a keen interest in helping the Saudis protect their energy infrastructure against terrorism, as demonstrated by the unsuccessful terrorist attack against the kingdom’s Abqaiq plants in February 2006,” it said.
“To this end, the United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed to cooperate in safeguarding the kingdom’s energy resources by protecting key infrastructure, enhancing Saudi border security, and meeting Saudi Arabia’s expanding energy needs in an environmentally responsible manner.”
Saudi Arabia sits on around a quarter of the world’s oil reserves and is by far its biggest producer with an output of some nine million barrerls per day.
The White House said Washington and Riyadh were also to sign an agreement on nuclear cooperation that would clear the way for Saudi Arabia to receive enriched uranium for its reactors, without the need to master the fuel nuclear cycle itself as Iran has done.
“This agreement will pave the way for Saudi Arabia’s access to safe, reliable fuel sources for energy reactors and demonstrate Saudi leadership as a positive non-proliferation model for the region,” it said.
Washington charges that Iran’s nuclear programme is cover for a drive to develop an atomic weapon, a charge denied by Tehran.
Uranium enrichment, the process which can produce for fuel for nuclear power stations — or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb — lies at the centre of US concerns.