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Egypt rejects reports of nuclear probe

world Updated: May 07, 2009 19:36 IST

AFP
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Egypt on Thursday dismissed as "erroneous and old" reports that the UN's nuclear watchdog is investigating traces of enriched uranium at an Egyptian nuclear facility.

Reports of an investigation "into the discovery by the International Atomic Energy Agency of traces of enriched uranium in Egypt are erroneous and old," foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement. "It's surprising that media can get hold of an IAEA report that is to be made public at a meeting in June; this raises several questions on what pushed some people to reveal this information," Zaki said.

"Egypt has in the past already explained to the agency the circumstances of this matter and agency officials agreed with Egyptian explanations," Zaki said, adding that the issue had arisen in 2007. "The agency always says in its reports that Egyptian nuclear activities are of a peaceful nature," Zaki said.

Egypt decided in 2007 to relaunch its nuclear energy programme, which started with the Soviet Union in 1961 but was frozen following the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

It has one research reactor at Inshas northeast of Cairo and is currently carrying out consultations on where to build its first nuclear power station.

Egypt, which ratified the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1981, seeks a nuclear weapons-free Middle East and regularly criticises Israel for its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

However, Cairo has also said it will not sign a voluntary additional protocol to the NPT that would allow more intrusive inspections, saying it could make it too dependent on other countries for nuclear energy needs.