Monday, February 20, 2006

France and India agree on atom deal

France and India agree on atom deal - Print Version - International Herald Tribune: "France took a step toward providing civilian nuclear expertise to India on Monday, signing a deal aimed at helping the growing Asian economy tackle an energy crisis. The agreement came during bilateral talks.

Working to revitalize economic ties amid accusations that France has been slow to wake up to India's growing economic potential, President Jacques Chirac of France was in India with five senior ministers and about 50 of France's leading business executives. The two countries said they would work to double bilateral trade over the next five years from its current level of €3.5 billion, or $4.17 billion.

The French deal on future nuclear cooperation cannot be finalized until New Delhi and Washington agree on their own pact, bypassing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which India has always refused to sign. Talks are currently deadlocked as India stalls over a U.S. demand to separate its military and civilian facilities.

France is competing with the United States to supply nuclear power capability to India and stands to win lucrative contracts if the Indian- U.S. deal goes through and trade in civilian nuclear materials is opened up.

Airbus said on Monday it had concluded an agreement, estimated at $2.5 billion, with the state-run Indian Airlines for the purchase of 43 Airbus aircraft. Nine bilateral deals on defense, tourism and trade were signed alongside the nuclear memorandum of understanding, but a press conference designed to celebrate the strengthening of ties between the two countries was overshadowed by the debate on Mittal Steel."

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