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US Senators move to obstruct Trump-Bin Salman nuclear deal

US Senators are set to introduce another obstacle for President Trump in his dealing with Saudi Arabia as relations between the White House and Congress continue to sour over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Yesterday, Senators Marco Rubio and Ed Markey joined forces to introduce a bipartisan bill that would ban the US from entering into a nuclear energy deal with Saudi Arabia unless it comes clean about the death of Khashoggi, who was a resident of Washington at the time of his murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Trump administration is eager to deepen its relationship with Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman by striking a deal to share nuclear power technology with the Kingdom. However, if passed, this bill will further curb Trump's ability to manoeuvre in his dealings with Riyadh.

The No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act will give Congress the final say on any nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The bill also states that no agreement shall be made with Riyadh until the oil-rich Kingdom "is truthful and transparent" about the murder of Khashoggi. It also places demands on Saudi Arabia to make progress on protecting human rights, including the release of political prisoners.

READ: Saudi Arabia is hit by a double whammy in one day over Yemen and Khashoggi

Commenting on the bill, Republican Senator Rubio said, "This important bill will ensure Congress has oversight over and the right to affirmatively approve any nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, and also continues to press the Saudis for accountability in Jamal Khashoggi's murder." He called on the Trump administration to suspend all talks with the Saudis on civil nuclear energy until they agree to meet the so-called "Gold Standard" requirements under any nuclear cooperation deal, known as 1-2-3 agreements, to ensure that uranium enrichment and the development of a nuclear weapon cannot take place.

Democrat Senator Markey reiterated the need to put a check on Trump's relations with the Saudis. "This legislation would ensure that we put key checks in place to ensure that Saudi Arabia never ends up with the US technology or materials to make a nuclear bomb," he explained, "and that Congress has the final say."

US President Donald Trump protects the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman [Twitter]

US President Donald Trump protects the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman [Twitter]

Concerns over Saudi Arabia's ability to use nuclear power to develop a weapons programme mounted after Bin Salman told CBS in March that the Kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its arch rival Iran was allowed to do so. With the Khashoggi affair casting a shadow over Riyadh and Washington, senators from both parties urged Trump in November to suspend nuclear talks.

While the proposed legislation is unlikely to pass before the end of the current Congress in January, it highlights a deepening of the divide between Trump and US legislators over the nature of the relationship between the two countries following Khashoggi's brutal murder. US Senators have based their view on a CIA report and concluded that the Crown Prince ordered the killing, and they are determined to punish Bin Salman. They have already passed several resolutions rebuking Trump and holding Saudi Arabia's de facto leader responsible, despite the US President's insistence that it should be business as usual with the Kingdom.

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