Iran hit back at US President Donald Trump‘s call for new nuclear negotiations that encompass its ballistic missiles programme, accusing Washington of bringing the Middle East to the brink of “explosion” by selling arms to allies in the Gulf.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran‘s foreign minister, made the comments in a wide-ranging interview that aired on NBC News on Monday.

He said Iran would only sit down with the United States if it lifted punishing economic sanctions it has imposed on Tehran and rejoined the 2015 nuclear deal it abandoned last year.

Trump pulled the US out of the landmark multilateral accord saying he wanted to negotiate a new deal that also addressed Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and support for armed groups in the region.

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Zarif, who is in New York City on a visit to the United Nations, told NBC it was the US and its allies – Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – who were to blame for turmoil in the Middle East.

“If you want to discuss ballistic missiles, then we need to discuss the amount of weapons sold to our region,” he said.

“Last year, Iran spent $16bn altogether on its military, we have an 82 million population. UAE with a million population spent $22bn. Saudi Arabia – with less than half of [Iran’s] population – spent $67bn, most of them are American [arms].

“These are American weaponry that is going into our region, making our region ready to explode. So if they want to talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons including missiles to our region.”

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