August 20, 2009 / 9:15 PM / 10 years ago

Russia to help Ecuador develop nuclear energy

QUITO, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Russia will help Ecuador develop a nuclear energy program for peaceful purposes according to a new energy cooperation agreement between the two countries, the Ecuadorean government said on Thursday.

“Yesterday the ministry of electricity and renewable energy signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) ... to carry out research in technologies and nuclear devices that may effectively be used in our country,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said that Rosatom would provide “support and assistance” to help Ecuador draft a set of laws that will limit the use of nuclear energy to peaceful purposes only.

The statement says the deal calls for the governments of the two countries to appoint a team that would identify “the most interesting projects to develop a nuclear industry” in the Andean country.

Ecuador does not have nuclear power plants or technology to produce nuclear energy.

During a visit to Ecuador last November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that his country was available to provide Ecuador with nuclear technology.

Russia is pushing to increase ties with leftist Latin American governments in a move that has renewed some Cold War-era tensions with the United States.

A U.S.-trained economist, Correa is often critical of Washington’s policies in Latin America. Last year Correa decided not to renew a deal that allowed the United States to use an air base in the country for drug surveillance flights.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who accuses Washington of helping orchestrate a coup against him, has spent billions of dollars on Russian fighter jets and helicopters.

Venezuela is planning to buy Russian tanks and other weapons to beef up its army, Chavez said earlier this month, adding that his country needs to be prepared for an attack.

Chavez claims the United States wants to control Venezuela’s huge oil reserves.

Both Venezuela and Ecuador oppose Colombia’s plans to sign a military cooperation agreement with the United States that would give Washington access to up to seven Colombian military bases.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia and Eduardo Garcia

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