Sarkozy offers French nuclear help to Egypt

PARIS, Dec 28 (Reuters) - France stands ready to help Egypt develop civilian nuclear technology, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told an Egyptian newspaper ahead of meetings in Egypt with President Hosni Mubarak.

“Egypt has considerable energy needs and it naturally envisages constructing nuclear reactors,” Sarkozy told Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, according to a French language transcript provided by his office on Friday.

“France, which probably has the best expertise and the greatest experience in the matter, is ready to cooperate with Egypt, if it wants,” he said.

Sarkozy, who has been holidaying in Egypt since Tuesday, is due to begin an official visit on Sunday.

In recent months, France has agreed nuclear cooperation deals with Morocco, Algeria and Libya and in July Sarkozy said the West should trust Arab states to develop such technology for peaceful purposes or risk a war of civilisations.

Egypt said in October that it would build several civilian nuclear power stations to meet its growing energy needs.

It ratified the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1981 but said earlier this month it would not sign on to an additional protocol that would allow the U.N. nuclear watchdog the right to make intrusive short-notice inspections of nuclear facilities.

It already has nuclear cooperation offers from China, Russia and Kazakhstan.

France generates almost 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. State-controlled Areva is the world’s biggest maker of nuclear reactors and its activities cover the full nuclear energy cycle from mining to waste. (Reporting by James Mackenzie)