UPDATE 1-EDF, GDF Suez split roles for UAE nuclear deal

* GDF Suez says would operate Abu Dhabi, EDF would build it

* EDF had said would take the lead of the French consortium

* Final French bid for $40 bln project submitted on Dec. 9

(adds details and quotes)

PARIS, Dec 11 (Reuters) - French power groups EDF EDF.PA and GDF Suez GSZ.PA have divided roles for if they win a multi-billion-dollar deal to build at least two nuclear reactors in Abu Dhabi, GDF Suez's head said on Friday.

“The leader for construction is clearly EDF and the leader of operations is clearly GDF Suez,” GDF Suez Chief Executive Gerard Mestrallet told French radio BFM.

GDF Suez GSZ.PA made a bid for the Abu Dhabi contract nearly two years ago with oil major Total TOTF.PA and nuclear reactor maker Areva CEPFi.PA.

The French trio was initially seen as a frontrunner for the deal but it has recently appeared to be losing ground to a bid by Korea Electric Power Corp 015760.KS. A group with General Electric GE.N and Japan's Hitachi 6501.T is also bidding.

EDF joined the consortium earlier this year after the United Arab Emirates asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy to convince the world’s biggest single producer of nuclear power to join the bid, according to several sources close to the situation.

EDF’s newly appointed Chief Executive Henri Proglio said on Wednesday that EDF was set to take the lead of a revamped bid, in association with GDF Suez, adding on Thursday that a final bid had been submitted on Wednesday night.

Mestrallet confirmed the information on Friday, telling BFM:

“I have read this. I do not deny this information.”

Two sources close to the situation have told Reuters that the French consortium -- in which Areva brings its reactor technology and Total its knowledge of the oil-rich region -- had significantly reduced its offer in November.

Mestrallet declined to say on Wednesday whether the French consortium had again revised its price to match the bid by Korea Electric Power Corp. For an analysis on the issues hampering Areva’s export plans, click on [ID:nGEE5B80YF]; For a factbox on Areva’s EPR reactor, click on [ID:nGEE5B60RR] For a Take a Look on France’s nuclear industry click on [ID:nNUKEFR1]

Reporting by Marie Maitre and Julien Ponthus, editing by Marcel Michelson