"We hope that our statements [on the study] will not be misunderstood," Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said after the announcement.

 

"This is not a secret and we are doing this out in the open. Our aim is to obtain the technology for peaceful purposes, no more no less."

 

Standoff with West

 

Gulf countries have expressed worry over neighbouring Iran's disputed nuclear programme that has lead to a standoff with the West over Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

 

The US and some allies allege Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons and are pressing for sanctions against the Shia Muslim country.

 

"Our aim is to obtain the technology for peaceful purposes, no more no less"

Prince Saud al-Faisal,
Saudi Foreign Minister

Iran, however, insists its programme is for peaceful purposes, and its Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has repeatedly vowed to press on with enrichment.

 

Iran's first reactor in Bushehr is projected to go on line in late 2007.

 

Security focus

 

Officials in the Sunni-led Gulf nations have previously focused on safety issues involving the programme, but they also are concerned about a possible military clash between the US and its ally Israel on the one hand and Tehran on the other. 

 

Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, the Gulf countries with US military bases, fear Iran could retaliate against them.

 

On Sunday, Gulf leaders reiterated their position that the standoff with Iran should be "resolved peacefully".