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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Egypt Seeking 'Peaceful Atom'

ReutersPutin and Mubarak reaffirming their commitment to closer ties Thursday.
Russia will compete to build nuclear power stations in Egypt, which wants four reactors up and running in the near future, Boris Alyoshin, head of the Federal Industry Agency, said Thursday.

"I think we have a really good chance to win" the construction bid, Alyoshin said. "Everything is going in this direction."

Alyoshin's comments immediately followed talks between President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak.

While Putin said nothing about the reactors during an earlier briefing with Mubarak, the Egyptian president made a point of saying Cairo sought Moscow's help in developing a "peaceful atom."

Russia is building nuclear power stations in Iran, India and China. The $800 million reactor in Bushehr, Iran, has been of particular concern to Western governments wary of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Putin and Mubarak spoke in the Grand Kremlin Palace's Malachite Foyer, an ornate hall filled with portraits of princes and military commanders.

Also on the two leaders' agenda Thursday was trade, gas and turmoil in the Middle East.

Putin, who met last month with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Mubarak should play a greater role in helping forge a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The so-called quartet of four major powers mediating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- would be helped by Egyptian participation, Putin said.

Mubarak said he was happy that both countries held "similar views" on the political situations in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Darfur and the Horn of Africa countries.

As if to underscore his call for greater Egyptian involvement in the peace process, Putin stressed Egypt's long ties to Russia, which date to the Soviet Union's help in the late 1950s building the 3.6-kilometer-long Aswan Dam.

"Egypt is one of Russia's significant partners," Putin said at the briefing.

Egypt might wind up expediting Russia's re-emergence as a serious force in the Middle East, said Alexander Filonik of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Oriental Studies.

"We are starting to awaken and look east," Filonik said. "Egypt has been our traditional, reliable partner in the region."

Earlier Thursday, Mubarak, who graduated from a Moscow military academy in the 1960s, laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and met with representatives from Russian firms keen on doing business or expanding operations in Egypt, including carmaker AvtoVAZ, the gas firm Novotek, the pharmaceuticals firm Protek and state arms trader Rosoboronexport.

Last year, trade between the two countries reached $1.6 billion, the Kremlin press service said.

Egypt is looking to build a 1-million-square-meter industrial zone that would give Russian companies preferential tax rates to bolster the automotive and aviation sectors, among others.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Mubarak discussed tourism, energy and cooperation between key industries, the government website said.

More than 1 million Russians are expected to visit Egypt's resorts this year. In 2005, 850,000 Russians visited the country, a 42 percent increase from the 600,000 who came the year before.

Russian archeologists are also contributing to research on mummies. "We are counting on Russia being one of the first countries where these rare finds will be exhibited," Putin said.

Staff Writer Simon Saradzyan contributed to this report.