Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Russia-Egypt nuclear deal signed

President Mubarak, left, and Vladimir Putin in Russia, 25 March 2008.
The deal gives Russia the chance to bid for Egyptian nuclear contracts

Egypt and Russia have signed a deal clearing the way for Russian involvement in building up Egypt's nuclear power industry.

Agreement was reached during talks in Moscow between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President Vladimir Putin.

Russia will now be able to bid to build the first of four atomic power stations Egypt plans.

The first reactor, on the Mediterranean coast, will be constructed at a cost of more than $1.5bn (750m).

President Mubarak told reporters: "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."

Mr Mubarak was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the agreement had come after "difficult" negotiations.

Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev said he was looking forward to a "productive partnership" in nuclear energy co-operation.

Russia is already building nuclear reactors in China, India and Iran. An Iranian plant at Bushehr is reported to be close to completion.

The deal was signed at Mr Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow by the head of Russia's Rosatom nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, and Egyptian Energy Minister Hassan Younis.

Peace conference

Correspondents say Russian leaders have been pressing hard for nuclear power plant contracts as the Kremlin seeks to retain high-technology expertise.

We believe there is a need for a mediatory role from Egypt and Russia
President Putin
The talks between Mr Putin and Mr Mubarak also covered the possibility of Moscow hosting a Middle East peace conference.

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

But he stressed that any Moscow meeting should be a conference in its own right rather than simply a follow-on from the Middle East talks which began in Annapolis in the US last year.

Russia is a member of what is known as the "quartet" of Middle East negotiators alongside the US, the United Nations and the European Union.

Correspondents say the Kremlin is anxious to play more of a mediation role in the Middle East and regain some of the influence lost since the end of the Cold War.

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