Egypt to sign nuclear pact with Russia

March, 2008

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak heads for Russia on Monday where he is expected to get assurances of Russian assistance to build a nuclear facility. A bilateral nuclear power deal was outlined last week and is expected to be signed during the visit. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit said the pact would enable Egypt to tap into Russia's extensive experience in the field of nuclear energy. The deal could allow Russia to participate in a tender to build nuclear reactors in Egypt. The pact coincides with international efforts to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for civilian purposes of manufacturing energy, but Western countries are concerned Teheran is covertly making an atomic bomb. The technologies for creating nuclear energy and nuclear bombs are similar and involve many dual-usage elements and substances. Egypt is one of several Middle Eastern countries seeking a nuclear program. Cairo wants to revive its atomic energy program, which was aborted in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, when the dangers of such a program became apparent. Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region seeking nuclear programs include Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, the Gulf countries and possibly Syria. All the nuclear newcomers in the region, including Iran, claim their programs have peaceful purposes. But there are concerns that these countries are not only seeking new energy sources, but also wish to maintain a strategic balance in the region against Iran and against Israel's alleged atomic weapons program. Israel maintains an official policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear capabilities. Russia is seen as a global leader in nuclear know-how and is helping Iran build some of its nuclear power plants, including the plant in Bushehr. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has decided to set up a nuclear agency to assess and develop its nuclear energy program. The UAE signed an agreement with France in January to help develop the program. Under the agreement, the UAE will not enrich uranium but will import the key substance from a "trusted foreign source," according to the Emirati news agency WAM.


Egypt-Russia trade grows 50% in 2007 to $2.1 bln

Egyptian-Russian trade grew 50% year on year in 2007 to $2.1 billion, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Sunday. The Egyptian president made this statement on the eve of his visit to Russia, which will take place on March 24-25. "Visits at the highest level gave a strong impetus to bilateral cooperation," Mubarak said in an interview with RIA Novosti. According to the Egyptian president, 1.5 million Russians visited Egypt last year, allowing Russia to take the first place in terms of the number of tourists visiting the North African country. "There are big opportunities for expanding cooperation in the sphere of trade, investment, energy and tourism between our countries," Mubarak said. During his visit to Russia, the Egyptian president is expected to sign a framework agreement on bilateral cooperation in the civilian nuclear energy sector. A source in Egypt's electricity and energy ministry earlier said the document will lay the foundation for nuclear energy cooperation between Egypt and Russia and will strengthen relations between Russian companies and Egypt. Nabil Rashwan, an expert on Russia, earlier said that the agreement would allow Russia to build nuclear power plants in Egypt, train Egyptian personnel and supply nuclear fuel, adding that cooperation with Russia was more advantageous than with the U.S. that imposed tough restrictions, including regular inspections and control. According to Rashwan, the U.S. is pressurizing Egypt to place its nuclear program under U.S. control to protect the security of Israel.


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