UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Barack Obama
UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Barack ObamaReuters

A leading member of the US House of Representatives revealed that a senior United Arab Emirates (UAE) official told him his country will also seek to enrich uranium, after Iran was allowed to do so in the recent nuclear deal.

Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba told him over the phone that the UAE is no longer bound by its previous nuclear agreement with the US, in a troubling sign of a regional nuclear arms race that Saudi Arabia has already indicated it will likely take part in.

"He told me, 'your worst enemy has achieved this right to enrich. It's a right to enrich now that your friends are going to want, too, and we won't be the only country,'" Royce told The Associated Press.

The US made an agreement with the UAE in 2009, promising to aid the Gulf state in producing nuclear energy in return for the UAE promising not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel to extract plutonium, both of which are processes to build a nuclear weapon.

The UAE Embassy in Washington wrote that the "government has not formally changed its views or perspective on the 123 Agreement or commitments," referring to the 2009 agreement.

But Royce revealed that al-Otaiba said the UAE "no longer felt bound" by the agreement, adding, "I took that to mean that they had the right to do that and that it was under consideration."

The US State Department declined to comment to the report.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said during a speech in August against the Iran deal: "imagine how a country like the United Arab Emirates - sitting just miles away from Iran across the Strait of Hormuz - feels after they sign a civilian nuclear agreement with the not enrich or reprocess uranium?"