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France, India sign nuclear deal

INDIA: France firmed up a 9.3-billion-dollar deal to sell two nuclear reactors to India on Monday following talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India signed a “framework agreement” with France’s state-run nuclear group Areva for the purchase of two reactors for a new plant in Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra.

“Negotiations (with Areva) have reached an advanced stage to pave the way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in partnership with Indian industry,” Singh told a joint press conference.

The deal is short of a final sale agreement, but it means Arena has moved ahead of competitors from the United States and Japan in the race to sell reactors to India, which is investing heavily in atomic energy.

Russia is already constructing two nuclear power units in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Maharashtra plant is set to ultimately have six reactors, but the first two are worth 7.0 billion euros (9.3 billion dollars), according to the French presidency.

Sarkozy is on a four-day trip to India, where he is seeking deeper trade ties while acknowledging his hosts’ increased role on the world stage.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have both swept through India with similar messages recently, as Western nations look for export opportunities in a fast-growing country seen as a natural ally in Asia.

Sarkozy heads a delegation of six ministers and around 70 chief executives, including the bosses of aircraft and defence groups Dassault Aviation and EADS. France recently took over the presidency of the G20 group of developed and major developing economic powers and Sarkozy sought support for his agenda, while also strongly backing a more influential role for India in world affairs.

He reiterated his support for India to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council — a key foreign policy objective for New Delhi — and suggested it might simply transform its current temporary seat in 2012.

According to the French presidency, Singh has pledged his “support” for Sarkozy’s G20 programme, which includes overhauling the global monetary system and combating commodity price volatility.

France is also seeking a slice of the billions of dollars earmarked by India for a military upgrade, but competition is fierce among foreign arms manufacturers and no contracts were signed on Monday.

AFP

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