France, Britain to sign nuclear deals, talk Syria

PARIS Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:02am EST

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for a Franco-British summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, February 17, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for a Franco-British summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, February 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Britain will agree a series of deals on civil nuclear cooperation and developing a next-generation combat drone when their two leaders meet on Friday for the first time since an acrimonious clash over Europe.

The annual Franco-British summit was postponed in December at the height of the euro zone crisis, but the two leaders look set to put on a show of unity as they try to coordinate their position on international issues ranging from Syria to Iran.

"Today's summit shows the strength and depth of Britain's ties with France," Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement. "One year on from the Libya uprising, we are working together to stand up to the murderous Syrian regime and to stop a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran."

The summit, due to start at 11.00 a.m. (1000 GMT), will agree deals worth about 500 million pounds ($790 million) between Rolls Royce and French nuclear energy firms Areva and EDF regarding building new nuclear power plants in Britain that could create 1,500 jobs.

In November 2010, Sarkozy and Cameron signed a defense and security cooperation treaty to increase coordination between their countries' armed forces and co-develop equipment.

But with the exception of Libya when the two countries' militaries worked together to degrade the forces of Muammar Gaddafi, the relationship has focused more on commercial arms deals rather than on coordinating strategy.

Friday's summit will also see Paris and London work more closely on improving their response to nuclear emergencies by establishing a framework for closer cooperation in the sector.

France's Nicolas Sarkozy, who this week announced he would seek re-election in April's presidential vote, and Cameron have had a tense relationship in the past few months after a public spat over London's veto of a treaty on euro zone fiscal integration in December.

"The summit is intended to further strengthen the relationship between our two countries," a statement from Cameron's office said. "A relationship founded on common values and shared interests."

The two leaders will also announce a non-binding letter of intent to develop a next-generation unmanned stealth aircraft or drone. That project will be headed by France's Dassault Aviation and British defense contractor BAE Systems, sources said.

The two U.N. Security Council members share a similar stance on trying to resolve the 11-month bloody crackdown in Syria. They were the architects earlier this month of a draft resolution at the United Nations to support an Arab League plan for political transition that was vetoed by Russia and China.

The Syria talks will centre on preparations before an international forum in Tunisia on February 24 that will try to find a solution to the growing humanitarian crisis in the country.

Sarkozy's office said discussions would also focus on Iran, which on Thursday said it was offering "new initiatives" to resume talks on its nuclear program.

(Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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