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25 Mar, 2008 07:47

Egypt and Russia to sign nuclear deal

Nuclear power, trade, and economic ties are top of Egyptian leader's list at talks in Moscow. Hosni Mubarak has met President-elect Dmitry Medvedev and is meeting President Putin to discuss the possible construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power station.

Egypt is close to announcing a tender to construct its first nuclear power plant, with the state Russian Nuclear Energy Corporation a likely contender.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit says a bilateral nuclear power co-operation deal was drawn up last week, and will be signed during the visit.

Mikhail Stiskin, an analyst from Troika Dialog investment bank, says Russian “reactors are very cost-competitive compared to French or U.S. ones, and at the same time they are not any less technologically advanced”.

In terms of politics, he says, the two countries have a very good historical relationship, especially in infrastructure.

Therefore, Stiskin thinks, Russia has a good chance of winning the contract.

“And overall Russia plans to build 60 new reactors abroad by 2030,” he added.

Russia will be hoping to cash in on a new Egyptian power engineering revolution, as both nations enjoy a period of economic growth.

During his visit, President Mubarak will meet executives from Russian companies involved in energy, engineering and tourism.

Discussions will also focus on joint efforts to promote peace in the Middle East and the situation in Iraq.

Since Vladimir Putin and Hosni Mubarak exchanged visits in 2006, bilateral trade has grown from $US 1.4 billion to 2.1 billion in 2007.

Russians outnumbered all other foreign tourists visiting Egypt last year, with 1.5 million heading for the Pyramids and the coastal city of Sharm-el-Sheikh.

There are major opportunities for expanding co-operation in tourism, aerospace and energy. Chairman of Russian Engineering Company, Sergey Issakov, says the potential is enormous.

“If Egypt invites Russian companies to its market to renovate power plants and refineries, to build new roads and renovate old ones, to develop their aviation, then, in my opinion, the prospects for our economic co-operation are simply vast,” Issakov said.