Saudi Arabia wants to enrich uranium for nuclear power — Prince Abdulaziz

Energy minister says Kingdom aiming for an IPO of Saudi Aramco 'as soon as possible'

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ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia wants to have uranium production and enrichment in future for its planned nuclear power program that will begin with two atomic reactors, the Kingdom's new energy minister said on Monday.

The world's top oil exporter has said it wants to use the metal to diversify its energy mix, but uranium enrichment also opens up the possibility of military uses of the material, the issue at the heart of Western and regional concerns over Iran's atomic work.

"We are proceeding with it cautiously ... we are experimenting with two nuclear reactors," Prince Abdulaziz said, referring to a plan to issue a tender for the Kingdom's first two nuclear power reactors.

He told an energy conference here that ultimately the Kingdom wanted to go ahead with the full cycle of the nuclear program, including the production and enrichment of uranium for fuel.

The tender is expected in 2020, with US, Russian, South Korean, Chinese and French firms involved in preliminary talks about the multi-billion-dollar project.

Prince Abdulaziz also said that the country is aiming for an initial public offering of its national oil giant Saudi Aramco "as soon as possible."

He was speaking for the first time since his appointment earlier this week, replacing Khalid Al-Falih, at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.

Aramco is preparing to sell up to a 5% stake by 2020-2021, in what could be the world's biggest IPO.

The company is meeting banks pitching for roles on the deal this week, and is expected to appoint the advisers in the coming days, two sources told Reuters.

The IPO is a centerpiece of Saudi Arabia's economic transformation drive to attract foreign investment and diversify away from oil.

Prince Abdulaziz said on Monday the world's top oil exporter would keep working with other producers to achieve market balance and that an OPEC-led supply-curbing deal would survive "with the will of everybody".

Prince Abdulaziz told reporters there would be "no radical" change in the oil policy of Saudi Arabia, which he said was based on strategic considerations such as reserves and energy consumption.

The prince had helped negotiate the deal between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, to cut global crude supply in order to support prices and balance the market.

He told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Abu Dhabi that the OPEC+ alliance was "staying for the long term" and called on OPEC members to comply with output targets.

"We have always worked in a cohesive, coherent way within OPEC to make sure that producers work and prosper together," the prince said.

"It would be wrong from my end to pre-empt the rest of the OPEC members," he said when asked whether there was a need for further oil production cuts to support the market.

Oil prices rose on Monday on his remarks. Global benchmark Brent crude futures were up 46 cents at $62.00 a barrel by 1011 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate was up 48 cents at $57.00.

Prince Abdulaziz said oil markets were being driven by "negative sentiments" but he did not believe there was an impact on oil demand growth. He said the global economic outlook was expected to improve once a trade dispute between the United States and China was resolved.

"People are speculating about a global recession but there is no recession today," he said.

The oil ministers of Oman and Iraq earlier told reporters in Abu Dhabi that it was too early to assess whether deeper cuts were required to support oil markets at a time of global recession concerns due to the US-China row.

The energy minister of non-OPEC Oman, Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Rumhy, said Muscat would like to see oil at $70 a barrel. He said overall compliance with the supply-curbing deal was good, but there were concerns that compliance was not fully shared.

The oil minister of Iraq, OPEC's second-largest producer, said Baghdad was committed to complying with the deal and that his country's production stood at 4.6 million barrels per day.

"We are definitely committed to respect (the curbs) ... our exports have decreased by at least 150,000 bpd from the south," Thamer Ghadhban said. — Reuters


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