Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said in a speech on Wednesday that Iran's pursuit of a nuclear programme was worsening tensions in the Middle East.

"It escalates the tensions, and brings about competition which is unneeded and unnecessary and uncalled for," Al-Faisal told an audience of about 250 political and business leaders in a speech organised by the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations.

Although Iranian officials have said they want to make fuel through enrichment, the activity can also generate the nuclear core of warheads.

Double standard

Al-Faisal said Iranians support their government's uranium enrichment programme partially because they see a double standard in US policy.

"They see the US government negotiating with North Korea ... and they see the US signing a nuclear peace agreement with India .... and they see the US turning a blind eye completely to Israel, although Israel has the most nuclear weapons in our part of the world," he said.

Al-Faisal called on US officials to advocate a totally nuclear-free Middle East instead of picking and choosing whose nuclear programmes to oppose.