A pact between the two countries is due to be signed in the next two to three weeks and was announced by Patrick Ollier, the president of the French National Assembly's economic affairs committee, on his return from Tripoli on Sunday.

"The governments have already given their approval," Ollier said.

France first expressed an interest in developing peaceful atomic energy in Libya last May after the North African country promised to give up nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in 2003.

Libya also signed protocols with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and ended more than a decade of international isolation by accepting responsibility and paying compensation for the bombing of airliners over Scotland and Niger in 1988 and 1989.

Nuclear prowess

Libyan leader
, Muammar al-Qadhafi said at the time that he still hoped to develop a nuclear programme for peaceful means.

France will be able to supply considerable nuclear expertise. It is home to the world's largest nuclear reactor manufacturer, Areva, and the world's top nuclear power producer, EDF.

Fears over oil and gas supplies and climate change have also pushed nuclear power into the limelight as a means to produce energy without emitting excessive carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming.

The latest international co-operation comes days after George Bush, the US president, signed a groundbreaking deal with Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, to allow India access to US atomic technology and fuel to develop its own civilian nuclear programme.