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Obama administration mulls India-style nuclear pact with Saudi Arabia

US officials are planning to hold talks with Saudi Arabia next week over a potential civilian nuclear pact. But Israeli concerns and Saudi Arabia's rivalry with Iran could complicate matters.

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The Obama administration is quietly moving ahead on the groundwork for a possible civilian nuclear trade agreement with Saudi Arabia – an agreement that could prove to be the most controversial of a string of such US deals in recent years.

The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.

The US has recently concluded civilian nuclear trade deals – or so-called “123” agreements – with India and the United Arab Emirates and is in advanced discussions with countries including Jordan, Vietnam, and South Korea.

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