Pak reiterates proposal for civil nuclear deal with France

Islamabad: Pakistan today reiterated its proposal for a "serious and substantive engagement in civil nuclear cooperation under the IAEA safeguards with France".

The issue was raised by President Asif Ali Zardari during his meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris.

Zardari had raised the matter yesterday during talks with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy.

Pakistan was faced with a serious energy crisis and it needs to "explore and exploit all sources of energy including hydro, thermal, solar, wind and nuclear", Zardari told Kouchner.

The two leaders agreed to set up Joint Commission to undertake cooperative projects in food and agriculture, economic development, security and training of nurses on a large scale for export to European and Middle Eastern countries.

The meeting of the Joint Commission, comprising four representatives from each country, will be held alternately in Islamabad and Paris and the first meeting will be held in Islamabad by October.

France also agreed to expedite release of aid committed under the Friends of Democratic Pakistan initiative to help Pakistan in relief and rehabilitation works in the wake of massive devastating floods.

Zardari said there was a need for regular bilateral coordination between the foreign ministries of the two countries on important multilateral issues and called for assistance in flood relief and rehabilitation, setting up income generating projects, improving health and education in the tribal areas of Pakistan and opening of branches of French banks in Pakistan.

Being a signatory to important international human rights covenants and having ratified the Convention Against Torture and suffered huge material and human losses during the war against terror, Pakistan "more than qualified to be allowed market access by the EU countries," Zardari said.

Zardari asked Kouchner to explore the possibility of a debt swap arrangement.

Bilateral debt to France totalling 2.3 billion dollars includes 845 million dollars of ODA and 1.49 billion dollars of non-ODA assistance.

Issues related to the regional situation and Afghanistan were also discussed during the meeting.

Zardari underlined the need for greater cooperation in intelligence sharing between the two countries in the fight against militancy.