Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects and believes it could acquire atomic bombs “at will”, the BBC reported on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme though it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy nuclear devices more quickly than Pakistan, said the report that quoted unnamed Western and Pakistani officials and intelligence operatives.

“Earlier this year, a senior NATO decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery,” said Mark Urban, diplomatic and defence editor of BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring”.

Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the country has sent the U.S. numerous signals of its intentions.

Gary Samore, who was President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser until March, said, “I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.”

The report said the story of Saudi Arabia’s project — including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges — goes back decades.

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