by Staff Writers
London (AFP) June 12, 2010
Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to allow Israeli warplanes to use its airspace in any bombing raid on Iran's nuclear facilities, The Times newspaper reported Saturday.
"The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way," a US defence source in the region told the paper.
"They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren't scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the (US) State Department."
Riyadh denied the British report on Saturday, calling it "false" and "slanderous," the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
"Saudi Arabia has followed the false and slanderous allegations reported by some British media that it would let Israel attack Iran via its airspace," SPA quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.
The kingdom "rejects violating its sovereignty or the use of its airspace or territories by anyone to attack any country," the unidentified official said, noting that Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Israel, which regards Iran as its principal threat, has refused to rule out using military action to prevent Tehran developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at power generation.
The Times said Riyadh, which views Iran as a regional threat, had agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance in the event of any bombing raid on Iran.
It said that a source in Saudi Arabia said the arrangement was common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom.
"We all know this. We will let them (the Israelis) through and see nothing," the source told The Times.
earlier related report
Speaking during a visit to the World Expo in Shanghai, Ahmadinejad denounced the UN Security Council's sanctions resolution adopted Wednesday with Chinese and Russian backing as "worthless paper".
The firebrand leader accused global nuclear powers of "monopolising" atomic technology and said the new sanctions would "have no effect" -- reserving most of his tough rhetoric for the United States, not his ally Beijing.
Swatting aside the US leader's offers of dialogue and rapprochement if Iran relents on its nuclear ambitions, Ahmadinejad said: "I think President Obama has made a big mistake... he knows the resolution will have no effect.
"Very soon he will come to understand he has not made the right choice and he has blocked the way to having friendly ties with the Iranian people."
Ahmadinejad chose a visit to his country's national pavilion during "Iran Day" at the Shanghai Expo over an appearance at a regional security summit in Uzbekistan attended by the Chinese and Russian leaders.
Presidents Hu Jintao of China and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia were in Tashkent Friday for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The SCO Friday snubbed Iran's membership bid, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the group's new guidelines did not allow countries under UN sanctions to join, leaving Tehran increasingly isolated over its refusal to renounce uranium enrichment.
Ahmadinejad's visit to the Expo comes at a delicate time in Tehran's relations with China, one of the Council's five permanent veto-wielding members.
His government had earlier reacted furiously to China's decision to fall into line with the United States and other powers that accuse Iran of covertly trying to build nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad nevertheless shied away from criticising Beijing, which has emerged as Iran's closest trading partner.
"The main problem is the US administration, and we have no problem with others," he told reporters, accusing the United States of seeking to "swallow" the Middle East.
"Not only China but others also announced the resolution is going to open a way for diplomacy."
The UN resolution expands an arms embargo and bars Iran from sensitive activities such as uranium mining.
It also authorises states to conduct high-seas inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items for Iran and adds 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.
Not for the first time, Ahmadinejad reserved his harshest rhetoric for Israel.
"It is clear the United States is not against nuclear bombs because they have a Zionist regime with nuclear bombs in the region," he said.
"They are trying to save the Zionist regime, but the Zionist regime will not survive. It is doomed."
Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state's demise.
Israeli leaders have refused to rule out a resort to military action to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Ahmadinejad said the entire architecture of global power was built to keep out smaller states.
"We have always said the Security Council is a tool in the hands of the United States. It is not democratic, it is a tool of dictatorship," he said.
"Five powers have the veto right and the nuclear bombs and the monopoly and they want to monopolise nuclear energy for themselves," he added.
Russia appears to be taking a tougher line with Iran. Officials said Friday that Moscow would comply strictly with the new UN sanctions, and signalled that a deal to supply Iran with air-defence missiles was now off.
China has kept up a more emollient line on Iran. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday that China "highly values relations with Iran and feels they are conducive to regional peace, stability and development."
An aide to Ahmadinejad told AFP he would leave Shanghai later Friday.
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