Sarkozy to sign UAE nuclear deal

Agreement expected as French president arrives in Saudi Arabia to strengthen ties.

    Sarkozy, right, will visit Qatar and the UAE after leaving Saudi Arabia [AFP]
    The deal for co-operation in civilian nuclear activities, a first step toward building a nuclear reactor, would be the third France has signed recently with Muslim nations after Libya and Algeria.
     
    "I have often said that the Muslim world is no less reasonable than the rest of the world in seeking civilian nuclear [power] for its energy needs, in full conformity with international security obligations," Sarkozy told the London-based Al-Hayat.
     
    Nuclear power
     
    The UAE has expressed an interest in developing nuclear power despite having its own oil and gas reserves.
     
    Neil Partrick, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera the UAE's move towards nuclear power was both "strategic" and "practical".
     
    "Particularly in the UAE, there is increasing energy demands and limited - believe it or not - energy resources," he said.
     
    "A nuclear power programme is practical and more widely may have some strategic weight, but we need to put it in perspective - it could take ten or fifteen years before the first power station comes on stream."
     
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    Under the deal, French companies Areva, Total and Suez could build two, third-generation nuclear plants in the UAE.
     
    The weekend edition of France's Le Figaro newspaper said one plant could be built under the agreement, although a formal contract was some way off.
     
    During a December visit to Egypt, Sarkozy also expressed France's willingness to assist Egypt in the nuclear field.
     
    Message to Iran
     
    Building nuclear reactors for civilian use for these countries would mean lucrative contracts for France, which generates most of its own electricity from nuclear power.
     
    Such contracts could also be seen as sending a message to Iran, whose own nuclear programme has led it into conflict with other world powers.
     
    The Iranian nuclear dispute with the international community was among the topics on Sarkozy's agenda during his three-day trip.
     
    Sarkozy says he wants international pressure increased on Iran over its refusal to halt its nuclear programme.
     
    "Iran is persistent in not respecting its international obligations, we want to continue to increase international pressure within the [UN] security council and European Union, until the country fulfills all its international obligations," he told Al-Hayat.
     
    Discussion would also focus on the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, Sarkozy's office said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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