RIYADH (AFP) – France and Saudi Arabia are close to finalizing a civil nuclear cooperation pact which could lead to the sale of French atomic energy technology, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Sunday.
A deal could be completed “soon,” Lagarde said after a day of meetings with top Saudi economic and energy officials as well as Saudi King Abdullah.
“The talks have progressed well,” she added.
Lagarde gave no details of what would be covered by the agreement, but officials said it could be completed and signed by the end of 2009.
Saudi Arabia, despite sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves, is considering nuclear technology to drive its power-hungry desalinisation plants, which supply water to the fast growing population.
Riyadh last year signed a pact with Washington on civil nuclear cooperation, which the United States hopes will open the way for sales of US nuclear technology and equipment to the Saudis.
Lagarde was on a one-day visit to Riyadh to discuss bilateral economic issues and promote France’s energy and transport sectors.
She said she held talks with Saudi oil officials on how to stabilise oil prices, which have swung wildly in the past year, and that a working group on the issue could meet soon in Paris.
“We want less volatility, more predictability,” Lagarde said late Saturday after arriving in Riyadh.
She added that oil prices, currently around 57 dollars a barrel, would be reasonable at between 70 and 80 dollars a barrel, roughly half of the peak hit in July 2008.
“Most people would agree that anywhere between 70 and 80 dollars would be good,” she said.