Riyadh: The Saudi cabinet agreed today to
sign a nuclear cooperation accord with France, which could
open the way for French help in developing nuclear power in
the oil-rich kingdom.
The agreement is "for the development of peaceful uses of
nuclear energy," the cabinet announced after its weekly
meeting in a statement carried by the official SPA news
The pact was first proposed by French President Nicolas
Sarkozy in talks with King Abdullah in June 2007 in Paris, and
the French side submitted a draft when Sarkozy visited Riyadh
in January 2008.
Saudi agreement was delayed while Riyadh undertook last
year a formal review of its nuclear policy, which resulted in
the April 2010 announcement that the kingdom would establish a
new research centre on nuclear and renewable energy.
That was seen as the strongest signal yet that the
country, which burns large amounts of oil and natural gas to
generate electricity and desalinate sea water for domestic
consumption, could develop nuclear power.
No details of the new pact were released, and there was
no indication of when Riyadh and Paris would formally sign the
The holder of around one-fifth of the world`s known oil
reserves, the Saudis have moved slowly on nuclear energy,
despite having signed a bilateral peaceful nuclear cooperation
pact with the United States in May 2008.
In December, neighbouring United Arab Emirates awarded a
South Korean-led consortium a USD 20.4-billion contract for
four nuclear power plants.
The Saudi cabinet today also agreed on a draft bilateral
tax treaty with France, and on a third pact on cooperation
between the Saudi Institute of Public Administration and
France`s elite Ecole Nationale d`Administration, or ENA.