France backs India’s nuclear energy needs: Sarkozy

New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) France backs India’s nuclear energy needs and also its claim for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Friday.

“We know that India’s energy needs are huge. If we don’t allow civilian nuclear energy, then they will go to more polluting sources,” said Sarkozy, who arrived Friday on a two-day visit.

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“France can be an advocate for nuclear energy cooperation with India,” he added.

The president was addressing a press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after their talks. The two countries also signed four agreements and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on a range of issues.

On his part, Manmohan Singh appreciated France’s “steadfast” support on the nuclear issue.

Sarkozy pointed out that France had third generation nuclear reactors that were “unequalled” in the world and added that French nuclear technology was also the safest.

This technology could help India set up its planned 20 nuclear power stations, he said.

According to Sarkozy, once an international waiver was obtained to enable the resumption of nuclear commerce with India and once the domestic debate in India on the issue — “on which I obviously don’t want to comment” — had blown over, France could come into the picture.

He noted that France’s flagship nuclear power company Areva could help India.

Sarkozy also reiterated French support for a permanent seat for India in an expanded UN Security Council.

The agreements the two countries signed related to protection of classified defence information, transfer of prisoners, and cooperation between India’s Department of Atomic Energy and its French counterpart on developing Jules Horowitz nuclear reactors.

The MoU related to the establishment in India of an international laboratory in the field of neurosciences.

Sarkozy will be the guest of honour at India’s Republic Day celebrations Saturday. Later he will fly to Agra to see the Taj Mahal before returning to New Delhi for his final engagements. He leaves for Paris Saturday night.