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    Jordan set to develop its own nuclear program

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    King Abdullah II of Jordan has told the Israeli daily Haaretz that his country would launch a civilian nuclear research program, following identical declarations of Egypt and other Gulf nations.

    TELAVIV, January 19 (RIA Novosti) - King Abdullah II of Jordan has told the Israeli daily Haaretz that his country would launch a civilian nuclear research program, following identical declarations of Egypt and other Gulf nations.

    The announcement reflects concerns that Iran's perseverance with its nuclear program despite an international moratorium would have a domino effect on the entire Middle East region, which holds the bulk of the world's energy resources.

    ""The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole region," King Abdullah II said. "Where I think Jordan was saying, 'we'd like to have a nuclear-free zone in the area,' after this summer [when Israel invaded Lebanon], everybody's going for nuclear programs."

    Israel's military conflict with Hizbollah in northern Israel and southern Lebanon began in mid-July when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and fired rockets into the country. In the month of bloodshed that followed, around 1,500 Lebanese civilians were killed by Israeli attacks, and much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese remain homeless, and large areas of the country remain uninhabitable due to unexploded cluster bombs.

    "The Egyptians are looking for a nuclear program. The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] are looking at one, and we are actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes. We've been discussing it with the West," the Jordanian head of state told Haaretz.

    The son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, considered his potential successor, openly urged his country in September to develop a nuclear program, saying it would only be used to generate energy. Egypt signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1981.

    The Jordanian monarch said nuclear power in the Middle East, including Israel, must be developed under effective international control.

    Israel, which is not a party to the NPT, has long been suspected of having nuclear weapons, even though the Israeli government has never officially confirmed it.

    "I personally believe that any country that has a nuclear program should conform to international regulations and should have international regulatory bodies that check to make sure that any nuclear program moves in the right direction."

    "What's expected from us should be a standard across the board. We want to make sure this is used for energy. What we don't want is an arms race to come out of this," he said. "As we become part of an international body and its international regulations are accepted by all of us, then we become a united front."

    Abdullah II also called for the early resumption of dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, saying it would unlock other roads to peace in the Middle East and help avoid new regional cataclysms similar to the Lebanon-Israel war this summer.

    "You have to start with the Palestinian first and look at the other ones as a close second. I would hedge my bets on how successful the other tracks would be if the Palestinian one is not solved," he said.

    "If we don't get the right nuances for what we need on the ground for the next year, then the future for us looks extremely dismal, for all of us in the region, if we don't move the process along," the king continued.

    "What happened this summer is just a taste of a lot of worse things to come if we don't change the direction of this discord," he said.

    King Abdullah II spoke for modifying the road map plan, which the international community considers to be the basis for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. The Jordanian leader said the phases in implementing the plan should be abandoned because they do not allow the political dialogue to be resumed without the Palestinians neutralizing radical groups first.

    "My only issue about the road map is that circumstances have changed since the road map was launched, and the sort of long drawn out phase approach, I don't think works anymore," he said. "So, we're looking at combining phases, I think, to move people as quickly as possible."

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