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Saudi Arabia to sign nuclear deal with France

world Updated: May 11, 2009 13:36 IST

Saudi Arabia and France are close to sign a civil nuclear cooperation deal that could lead to the sale of French atomic energy technology to the Gulf kingdom.

"A deal could be completed soon," French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said in Riyadh after meetings with Saudi King Abdullah, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf and other top officials of the Gulf kingdom yesterday.

"The talks have progressed well," she told the Saudi Press Agency without giving details of what would be covered under the agreement, but officials said it could be completed and signed by the end of 2009.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has signed civilian nuclear deals with Algeria and Libya, last year offered help to Kingdom to develop civilian nuclear energy.

A few months later, the United States said it would help Saudi Arabia to develop peaceful nuclear energy. Russia has also expressed its willingness to help the Kingdom develop a civilian nuclear energy programme.

At a press conference in Riyadh, Lagarde said France has renewed its pledge to cooperate in the oil sector and in any effort to help improve the global economic situation.

"It involves cooperation in civil nuclear energy under the best security conditions," Lagarde told reporters.