Russia and Egypt sign nuclear energy pact

Russia and Egypt signed an agreement on Tuesday opening the way for Russian firms to bid for lucrative contracts to build nuclear power plants in Egypt.

Russia and Egypt sign nuclear energy pact
The nuclear energy deal was signed after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak met near the Russian capital for talks which also covered Moscow's plan to host a Middle East peace conference.

"Egypt, in cooperation with its international partners and the International Atomic Energy Agency is going to develop this (nuclear energy) sector, including through the agreement we have just signed," Mubarak told reporters.

Egypt wants up to four nuclear power stations and an international tender to build the first of them may come as early as this year. Tuesday's agreement clears the way for Russia's state nuclear contractor to bid for work.

Kremlin is lobbying hard for contracts to build nuclear power plants abroad because it sees the industry as the type of high-technology sector it must develop to reduce its dependence on oil and gas exports.

Russia is already building nuclear reactors worth $1.5 billion to $2 billion apiece in Iran, China and India.

Moscov peace conference

After about two hours of talks at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, Putin said his officials were consulting with the United States and Middle East countries about hosting a regional peace conference in Moscow.

Russia is a member of the quartet of Middle East mediators with the United States, United Nations and European Union.

The Kremlin is seeking a bigger mediation role as it tries to re-establish itself as a Middle East power broker, a role it largely lost when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on a tour of the Middle East last week the Moscow conference would be a follow-up to the U.S.-hosted meeting in Annapolis late last year that restarted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

But Putin suggested he saw the Moscow conference as distinct from Annapolis, signalling that Russia did not plan to play a junior role to the United States in the peace process.

"If this conference happens, we want it to be a Moscow conference by definition," he said. "A meeting such as this should be an event in its own right."

"The main thing in our opinion is that the sides stop the violence, including shooting from both sides," Putin said. "We urge both sides to look to the future and take this as their basis, rather than day-to-day preoccupations."

"We expressed joint concern about growing tensions in the Palestinian territories, first and foremost in the Gaza Strip," he said.

"Taking into account growing Israeli-Palestinian tensions, we believe there is a need for a mediatory role from Egypt and Russia."

Last Mod: 26 Mart 2008, 08:55
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