Sarkozy in Emirates; signs nuclear, energy deals

( dpa ) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy sealed nuclear and energy agreements in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday afternoon, Arab broadcaster al-Jazeera reported without disclosing further details.

The president, who arrived in Abu Dhabi earlier, was expected to extend France-UAE business, cultural and economic ties in addition to signing the much-anticipated deal for civil nuclear projects.

Sarkozy's UAE visit is the third leg of his ongoing Gulf tour, which had previously taken him to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Before leaving Qatar, Sarkozy had told al-Jazeera that Arab countries should not be banned from using nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

The president predicted that "in 40 years from now there will be no oil left and in 100 years no more gas," and so nuclear power, in his view, is expected to replace both resources. "It is the energy of the future," he told the press.

The French president had discussed in Riyadh and Doha cooperation deals worth some 40 billion euros (59.4 billion dollars), most of which are expected to be sealed in the next few months, according to pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

France and Qatar also signed protocols managing their cooperation in the energy sectors - traditional, renewable and nuclear.

Sarkozy, accompanied by the heads of top French firms including Areva Transmission and Distribution and oil company Total, had already inked energy agreements that include transporting electrical equipment worth up to 500 million euros to Qatar, which is flush with cash and investment opportunities and abundant in oil.

In the UAE, French ambassador to Abu Dhabi Patrice Paoli told the Emirates' official news agency that Sarkozy's visit was "important and will translate mutual intentions and commitments between (the two countries) in political, economic, cultural and energy fields."

French newspaper Le Monde had also said that Sarkozy might sign a memorandum of understanding on establishing a French naval base in the port city of Abu Dhabi.

In addition to the commercial, military and civil deals, the president is to discuss regional issues of concern, Paoli said.

During the first leg of his tour in Saudi Arabia, Sarkozy had signed four bilateral agreements covering the areas of oil and gas, political cooperation, investment, and education and vocational training.

Before rounding off his visit to Riyadh, Sarkozy criticized the high price of oil, currently hovering around a 100 dollars a barrel. His comments echoed similar sentiments expressed by US President George W Bush, also currently on a Mideast tour.

"When the price of oil increases three-fold in four years to reach 100 dollars per barrel, I feel perturbed about the nature of such increases," said Sarkozy, who questioned the effects of the rocketing cost on purchasing power and on poorer nations with a shortage in alternative energy resources.

"We believe that the realistic price for oil should be 70 dollars," he added.

His statements sparked a reaction from Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah, who said that the rise to the 100- dollar mark was a fleeting development connected to fluctuations and traffic in the market.

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