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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 09:52 GMT
Libya in 'milestone' nuclear deal
Tripoli reservoir
Libya wants to use nuclear energy to tackle projected water shortages
Libya and France have signed an accord for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The signing took place during the visit to Tripoli by France's director of atomic energy commission, Alain Bugat.

The two countries are looking to cooperate on future projects involving nuclear power for civil use.

It is the first such agreement to be signed with Libya since the country gave up its nuclear ambitions for military use more than two years ago.

The supervisor of Libya's National Centre for Nuclear Research and Development, Maatug Mohamed Maatug, says the accord is an important milestone in Libya's relations with the rest of the world.

Mr Maatug says they are looking to use nuclear energy for water desalination plants to meet the country's projected water shortage in 15 years.

Other civil nuclear power uses envisioned include agriculture and solar energy.

Mr Bugat says France wants to be an active and productive partner in Libya's nuclear development for peaceful purposes.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Libya says that Tripoli sees this nuclear accord as a significant step by the West, led by France.

More importantly, this latest development symbolises a new era of trust between Libya and the international community, she says.

Libya is being treated differently from Iran because two years ago it admitted it had secretly conducted work on nuclear fuel enrichment and gave it up.

Although it is entitled to enrich fuel under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was supposed to do so under inspection. After its admission and cessation, Western governments decided to help it.

Although Iran is also entitled to both receive such help and enrich fuel itself, the UN nuclear agency (IAEA) has demanded that it suspend its enrichment until all issues surrounding its own secret programme, revealed in 2002, are resolved.

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