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Saudi Arabia’s foreign affairs minister Adel al-Jubeir has refused to rule out the possibility of arming the Kingdom with nuclear weapons in the wake of Iran exceeding permitted levels of uranium. On the prospect of engaging in a nuclear programme, Mr al-Jubeir said: “It’s definitely an option.”

He added: “And Saudi Arabia has made it very clear, that it will do everything it can to protect its people and to protect its territories.”

The stark warning comes after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud urged global leaders to take a “decisive stance” against Iran over its growing military threat.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh accused the Kingdom of “hate-mongering”.

Saudi Arabia and Iran – two powerful neighbours – have been locked in a regional battle for dominance for decades.

The relationship between the two nations has been exacerbated by religious differences.

The people of Iran are largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries officially broke down in January 2016 following an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Increased fears over Iran emerged in recent weeks, after a report found they had 12 times the permitted levels of enriched uranium.

Research by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium has now reached 2.4 tonnes (2,442kg).

Under the terms of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, Tehran is limited to 202kg.

The watchdog also noted Iran had violated purity levels of enriched uranium with 4.5 percent recorded – above the 3.67 percent limit.

The bombshell study sent alarm bells ringing in Washington and the US President is understood to have spoken to his advisers over the possibility of launching strikes against Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant, the New York Times reports.

The 100,000 square-mile site – located around 150 miles south of Tehran – runs eight metres underground and is Iran’s largest uranium enrichment facility.

Relations between the Washington and Tehran have been on the brink ever since the US President pulled out of the Iran Nuclear deal in 2018 – which granted Tehran sanction relief in return for curbing its nuclear programme.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has since opened the door for peace talks with President-elect Joe Biden after relations with Mr Trump soared.

Mr Zarif said Iran would fully implement its 2015 nuclear deal if Mr Biden lifts economic sanctions.

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Mr Biden has previously said a return to Iran nuclear deal would be “a starting point for follow-on negotiations”

Mr Zarif said: “If Mr Biden is willing to fulfil US commitments, we too can immediately return to our full commitments in the accord and negotiations are possible within the framework.”

He added: “We are ready to discuss how the United States can re-enter the accord.”

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