Moscow to help Egypt reboot its nuke program

Friday, April 29, 2005

MOSCOW Egypt has accepted an offer by Russia to provide nuclear assistance and upgrade strategic relations. Egypt claims it discontinued its nuclear program last year.

Russian officials said Moscow has offered to supply expertise and technology to Egypt's nuclear program including energy and research projects. Egypt has accepted the Russian offer for nuclear cooperation, officials said. They said Cairo and Moscow would soon sign a formal accord that could include nuclear as well as defense and space cooperation.

Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency director Alexander Rumyantsev said Cairo and Moscow were preparing what he termed a comprehensive cooperation agreement on nuclear energy. Rumyantsev accompanied President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Egypt on April 27, where he met President Hosni Mubarak, Middle East Newsline reported.

In 2004, Egypt appeared to shelve its nuclear energy program. Officials disagreed on the nature of Russia's assistance and the future direction of Egypt's program.

"The parties will discuss concluding technical details of the document aimed at increasing bilateral cooperation in nuclear energy," Rumyantsev said upon arrival in Cairo.

Rumyantsev said Egypt has established a regional research and medical center based on a Russian cyclotron. He said the two countries were ready to install an accelerator to produce nuclear isotopes required for medicine.

The two countries were also discussing what officials said were additional civilian nuclear projects. Officials said they included the establishment of a nuclear-powered desalination plant.

"Russia and Egypt are not talking about building a nuclear plant," Rumyantsev said.

But later Putin's foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko appeared to disagree. Prikhodko said Moscow has sought to renew supplies of military equipment and spare parts to the Egyptian military, construct a nuclear power station and cooperate in space.

Another member of Putin's delegation was Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council International Affairs Committee and regarded as a presidential adviser. Margelov said Russian defense and energy contractors have increased their activities in Egypt and other Arab countries.

"A new Middle East policy is an important part of Russia's mission in Eurasia," Margelov said.

Copyright 2005 East West Services, Inc.

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