PARIS — France and Kuwait opened the way for joint nuclear energy projects in the Gulf country, giving major French players a foothold months after they embarrassingly lost a big contract in the region.
An agreement "to develop the peaceful use of nuclear energy" was signed in Paris by Kuwait's Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and French government officials.
"This agreement will permit the development of cooperation between France and Kuwait in several areas of nuclear energy" including electricity generation, a French government statement said.
Al-Sabah discussed nuclear cooperation on Friday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who hopes the new accord will "result in industrial cooperation," according to the presidency.
France hosted a gathering of 60 energy-hungry nations in Paris last month, with Sarkozy urging international bodies to finance a new era of global nuclear power.
France has the world's second largest nuclear sector and generates a greater proportion its own electricity through nuclear power than any other economy -- around 75 percent of its needs.
It has also made the export of nuclear technology an economic priority.
French engineering giants Areva and EDF are promoting the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), a third-generation reactor design that France considers the most advanced in the world.
Sarkozy vaunted the "safety and reliability" of this reactor and "France's ability to provide a service covering the whole nuclear energy cycle," according to the presidential statement.
The French firms recently lost out on a 20 billion dollar (14 billion euro) contract to supply four reactors to the United Arab Emirates after South Korean firm Kepco came in with a lower offer.
Sarkozy and Al-Sabah on Friday also discussed the sale of French Rafale fighter jets to Kuwait.
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