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Emirates leader discounts fear of Iranian bomb

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Story highlights

  • "What can Iran do with a nuclear weapon?" Al Maktoum asks
  • The IAEA said it has evidence Iran has worked toward a bomb
  • Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful

A leader of the United Arab Emirates discounted concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran in a CNN interview Monday, saying Tehran would find the ultimate weapon to be of little use.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emirates' prime minister and vice president, told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that he did not believe Iran would build a bomb.

"What can Iran do with a nuclear weapon?" Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, asked. "For example, will they hit Israel? How many Palestinians will die? And you think if Iran hits Israel, their cities will be safe? They will be gone the next day."

Tehran has long insisted that its development of nuclear technology is strictly peaceful, aimed at producing civilian electricity. But it has refused international demands to halt its production of enriched uranium, bringing it under increasing sanctions in recent years. And the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported in November that it has credible information that Iran has carried out work toward developing a nuclear bomb.

The UAE lies just across the mouth of the Persian Gulf from Iran, with barely 80 kilometers (50 miles) separating the two nations.

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"Iran is our neighbor," Al Maktoum said. "They are Muslim, and we lived next to each other for thousands and thousands of years. I don't believe that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon."

But other countries -- notably Israel -- are more concerned about the prospect. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a nuclear Iran a "grave, direct threat."

Israel is widely believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, though it has never declared itself a nuclear power. Western analysts say Iran could spur an arms race among other countries in the region if it develops nuclear weapons.