Mubarak said: "Egypt, in co-operation with its international partners and the International Atomic Energy Agency is going to develop this sector, including through the agreement we have just signed.

Tuesday's agreement clears the way for Russia's state nuclear contractor to bid for the project.

The 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 $1.5bn to $2bn each in Iran, China and India.

Moscow conference

Meanwhile, after about two hours of talks with Mubarak at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, Putin said his officials were consulting 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 US, the 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.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said on a tour of the Middle East last week that the Moscow conference would be a follow-up to the US-hosted meeting in Annapolis late last year that restarted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

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

He said: "If this conference happens, we want it to be a Moscow conference by definition. 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. We urge both sides to look to the future and take this as their basis, rather than day-to-day preoccupations."

Putin said he and the Egyptian leader were concerned about violence in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Israeli forces.

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

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