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France, Kuwait sign nuclear cooperation deal

by Staff Writers
Kuwait City (AFP) Jan 14, 2010
Kuwait and France signed on Thursday a cooperation agreement for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, officials said.

The oil-rich emirate had announced plans to set up a civilian nuclear project mainly to produce power and also established a national committee for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

"This is the first step of cooperation and to share experience in the nuclear field," the head of France's Atomic Energy Commission, Bernard Bigot, told reporters during a visit to parliament.

"It is to help Kuwait (develop) nuclear energy ... and to assist it to decide for its future needs," Bigot said.

The secretary general of Kuwait's national committee on nuclear energy Ahmad Bishara said the agreement "does not stipulate the building of a nuclear power plant at this stage."

But he added that Kuwait has "the will, the resources and the need" to do so.

The 20-year agreement allows the "supply of nuclear material, equipment and facilities" and is subject to international treaties.

It also envisions training, exchange of technology information and research.

Last June, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde held talks with Kuwaiti officials over their plans to eventually build a nuclear power plant.

Lagarde said Kuwait's emir, crown prince and prime minister proposed to "pursue, deepen and accelerate" cooperation on the nuclear project.

Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said in February that the nuclear project aims to produce electricity in a bid to save large quantities of fuel being consumed by power and water desalination plants.

Kuwait has no military ambitions in the nuclear field, and its programme will be "within international law and standards," he said.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is planning a joint nuclear technology programme for peaceful use under international rules.

The GCC's interest in developing atomic energy comes amid a continuing standoff between the West and Iran over its programme of uranium enrichment.

Western nations believe Tehran is using its nuclear programme to secretly develop an atomic bomb, a claim denied by Iran, which maintains its nuclear activities are peaceful.

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