TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya and France on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding for the cooperation on a nuclear energy project during a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, an aide to Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy travelled to Libya seeking to deepen relations with the North African country after helping to resolve a diplomatic standoff that hurt the oil exporter’s ties with the West.
“The objective is to cooperate so as to work on the installation in Libya of a nuclear reactor to supply drinking water from desalinated sea water,” Claude Gueant, the secretary general at the French presidential palace, told reporters.
Gueant indicated that France’s Areva company might supply the reactor.
“As to what concerns nuclear stations, there aren’t 50 builders in France. There’s only one, that’s Areva,” he said.
Libya said in February it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Areva allowing it to explore for and mine uranium “for peaceful purposes.”
A Libyan statement at the time did not say whether the uranium, if found, would be used for domestic nuclear purposes or exported.
Areva is the world’s biggest maker of nuclear reactors and its activities cover the full nuclear energy cycle from mining to waste.
Libya and France on Wednesday also signed an accord on cooperation on a military-industrial partnership and an agreement on cooperation in the fields of scientific research and higher education.
Libya cast off more than a decade of international ostracism in 2003 when it accepted responsibility for and began paying compensation for the bombing of airliners over Scotland and Niger in 1988 and 1989.
Sarkozy has said he wants to help Libya return to the “concert of nations” after it freed six foreign medics convicted of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV.