Dubai: The United Arab Emirates promised to set “a good example” for the Middle East on developing civilian nuclear energy as it signed a cooperation agreement on Monday with the United States.
“We really want to be a good example for the region,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a signing ceremony ahead of a broader Arab-US meeting in Bahrain.
“I know that you will be,” Rice replied. “The UAE is a very responsible partner.”
U.S. and Bahrain signed a similar atomic energy cooperation MoU in Washington last month in what the U.S. holds up as a model for the Middle East that contrasts with Iran’s contested nuclear programme.
Amid concerns over Iran’s nuclear aims and regional clout, the six oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states decided in December 2006 to develop a joint nuclear technology programme for peaceful uses.
Members of the pro-Western GCC are UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Details of the UAE-US agreement were expected shortly.
But in the deal last month, Bahrain promised to forego sensitive fuel cycle technologies and rely on existing international markets for nuclear fuel, a contrasting approach to Iran’s.
The UAE issued a white paper on Sunday on potential plans to develop peaceful nuclear energy in which it also said it would import nuclear fuel for any reactor it builds and not enrich uranium at home.
U.S. President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin stressed such an approach in the Joint Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Non-Proliferation that they issued on 3July last year.
The UN Security Council last month tightened sanctions against Tehran for its repeated defiance of ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment activities which Washington fears will be used to build an atomic bomb.
Iran insists its programme is peaceful and says that it has every right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for civil purposes.
France signed a deal to help the UAE develop nuclear energy for peaceful ends during a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Abu Dhabi in