DUBAI (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed on Sunday plans to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates amid reports French firms could construct up to two nuclear reactors there.
Sarkozy said in an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat before a three-day visit to Gulf states: “My visit to the United Arab Emirates will be … the occasion to sign an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“I have said often that the Muslim world does not have less rights than the rest of the world to use civilian nuclear power to meet its energy needs in full conformity with the obligations that derive from international law,” Sarkozy added.
French companies Areva, Total and Suez could build two, third-generation nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates, Jazeera Television said on Sunday.
The weekend edition of France’s Le Figaro newspaper said one plant could be built under the agreement, although a formal contract was some way off.
Areva, which developed the so-called EPR reactor, was not immediately available for comment.
Sarkozy is due in the UAE on Tuesday after stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The chief executive of French reactor maker Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, and Total Chief Executive Christope de Margerie will accompany Sarkozy on his tour.
France has already signed civilian nuclear accords with Arab oil producing countries Libya and Algeria.
Sources close to the situation told Reuters in Paris on Friday that UAE authorities would prefer to sell their oil, which is trading at close to $100 a barrel, rather than use it to produce electricity and were in talks with Areva.
Areva was also set to sign a power transmission and distribution contract worth between 300 million euros and 500 million euros ($443 million-$739 million) in Qatar, the sources said.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose gathering of Gulf Arab states including the UAE, has said it was studying the possibility of developing a joint nuclear energy program and has already been in touch with the U.N. atomic energy watchdog about cooperating on such a scheme.