SAUDI Arabia could acquire nuclear warheads within weeks of Iran developing atomic weapons as the threat from Tehran triggers an arms race across the Middle East.

In the event of a successful Iranian nuclear test, Riyadh would immediately launch a twin-track nuclear weapons program.

Warheads would be purchased off the shelf from abroad, with work on a new ballistic missile platform getting under way to build an immediate deterrent, according to Saudi sources.

At the same time, the Saudi kingdom would upgrade its planned civil nuclear program to include a military dimension, beginning uranium enrichment to develop weapons-grade material in the long term.

Saudi officials emphasise that Riyadh has no military nuclear program at present and will continue to lobby for nuclear disarmament across the region.

But the Saudi government accepts privately that there is no chance of Israel surrendering its undeclared arsenal of warheads, and Riyadh is determined to match Tehran if its arch enemy in the Gulf goes nuclear. Read more.