RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia has been investing in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, believing it could get such weapons at will, sources told the BBC.
While framed in the context of countering Iran's nuclear program, the BBC reported Wednesday it now was possible that Saudi Arabia could have the capability to deploy a nuclear device more quickly than Iran.
The BBC said a senior NATO official earlier this year saw intelligence reports that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan for Saudi Arabia were ready for delivery.
Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said during 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."
The BBC said the Saudi project is decades old. Western experts also said Saudi Arabia provided financial assistance to Pakistan's defense sector, including its missile and nuclear labs.
In 2003, a paper leaked by senior Saudi officials outlined three possible scenarios about the kingdom's changing security environment and the possibility of nuclear proliferation: acquiring their own nuclear weapons, entering into an arrangement with another nuclear power to protect the kingdom or relying on establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.
In 2007, U.S. diplomats in Riyadh said they were being asked questions by Pakistani diplomats about U.S. knowledge of "Saudi-Pakistani nuclear cooperation," the BBC reported.
By the end of that decade Saudi leaders were voicing unambiguous warnings of their intention to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran did.
Simon Henderson, director of the Global Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told BBC he believed the Saudis weren't bluffing, noting when "the Saudis speak about Iran and nuclear matters very seriously."
The BBC said it contacted the Pakistani and Saudi governments.
The Pakistan Foreign Ministry called the reporting "baseless," and said, "Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapon state with robust command and control structures and comprehensive export controls."
The Saudi Embassy in London issued a statement noting it is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and has worked for a nuclear free Middle East. It also said the United Nations' failure "to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone is one of the reasons the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejected the offer of a seat on the U.N. Security Council."
The Saudi statement said the lack of international action "put the region under the threat of a time bomb that cannot easily be defused by maneuvering around it."