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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 17:00 GMT
Egypt unveils nuclear plants plan
Nuclear research centre in Inshas, north of Cairo (in 1998)
Egypt already has an experimental nuclear facility at Inshas
President Hosni Mubarak has said Egypt is to build a number of nuclear power stations to generate electricity.

Mr Mubarak said he had decided to go ahead with the programme because energy security was such an important factor in Egypt's development.

Egyptian officials announced plans last year to revive civilian nuclear activities but at the time they spoke of building a single power station.

The United States said it would offer its co-operation in the project.

US officials insisted there were no comparison between peaceful use of nuclear technology by Egypt and Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

The US and some Western governments say Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, and the United Nations Security Council has demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium.

Iran insist its nuclear programme, including the uranium enrichment which can be turned to weapons manufacture, is peaceful.

Rising demand

Mr Mubarak's announcement comes just a few days before his party holds its annual conference and the BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says the timing seems calculated to give a boost to the party's image.

Many Egyptians view the development of a nuclear programme as an issue of national pride, our correspondent adds.

Demand for electricity has been growing at an average rate of 7% a year in Egypt and the country faces worsening shortages.

Cairo froze its nuclear power programme 20 years ago, following the accident at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine.

However, it did maintain a small experimental nuclear reactor. In February 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency disclosed that it was investigating Egypt's nuclear activities.

It concluded that Egypt had conducted atomic research, but that the research did not aim to develop nuclear weapons and did not include uranium enrichment.

Egypt admitted to failing to disclose the full extent of its nuclear research activities to the UN's watchdog. Officials said the failure arose because of a misunderstanding over exactly what had to be disclosed.

Egypt is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows countries to build nuclear power stations under international supervision.

Cairo has long pressed for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.

Israel is the only Middle East state with a known nuclear arsenal, though it maintains a position of "ambiguity" on its nuclear weapons, insisting that it will not be the first state to introduce nuclear weapons to the region.

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