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Race to acquire nuclear power

Egypt may be the focus of Russia's attempt to sell its nuclear wares abroad.

But Egypt's neighbours are also desperate to acquire atomic energy, with the UAE and Jordan also looking at ways of developing the technology.

Despite Western calls for non-proliferation in the Middle East - with fear that Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb could trigger an arms race - Britain, France and the US are among the countries helping to supply the know-how and material for nuclear reactors.

In the UAE, the US signed a deal to develop a nuclear reactor on the understanding that the country, which has strong trade ties with Iran, will not produce its own nuclear fuels.

Britain signed an agreement with Jordan, Israel's energy-poor neighbour.

Jordan, like Egypt, has a peace treaty with Israel to develop a reactor.

"If we are to move the world to a low-carbon economy then nuclear power needs to be an important part of the energy mix," David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, said after the deal was signed.

He said that Jordan was a model for other countries.

Last year France closed a $2 billion (BD750,000) deal with Abu Dhabi to build nuclear power stations there.

It will also secure rights to a military base.

While trying to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions - which Tehran says are designed for civilian power generation - the Western countries building reactors in the region say they can serve as a model for Iran of how checks can allow states to develop carbon-free energy without running the risk of proliferation.

Critics warn that putting more nuclear facilities in a region riven with tensions and the threat of wars is unwise.

There are already fears that if Iran builds a nuclear weapon its Arab neighbours may feel compelled to follow suit to create a balance of power.

At present the only country with a nuclear capacity in the region is Israel, which has said that it may carry out air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities.



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