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China, Pak to seal nuke plant deal

Islamabad, Nov. 2 (Reuters): Pakistan is expected to finalise a deal with China for the construction of a nuclear power plant, officials said today, the second such plant to be built with the help of Beijing.

The agreement for the construction of the 300 megawatt nuclear power plant is expected to be signed during the visit of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to China.

“Yes, absolutely there is a possibility,” foreign office spokesperson Masood Khan said when asked whether the agreement would be finalised during the visit.

The nuclear plant will be constructed at Chashma on the banks of the Indus River, around 280 km south of Islamabad and alongside the first plant that China helped to build, which has a similar capacity.

Khan said China had agreed in principle to build a second nuclear power plant during the visit of Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali to Beijing in March.

He said the financing details of the project had yet to be worked out.

Energy experts say the project is estimated to cost $600 million and will take at least six years to complete.

The first Chashma nuclear power plant was built in 1999 and was connected to the national power grid in early 2000.

The US has repeatedly urged China to halt nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, but both Beijing and Islamabad insist that they are not working together for any military purposes.

Khan said the nuclear power plant would be constructed under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“It will be meant for civilian use of nuclear energy.”

Pakistan set up its first nuclear power station in 1972 in the the port city of Karachi with Canadian help. The Karachi plant has a capacity of 137 megawatts.

Western countries, under pressure from the US, later halted nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, suspecting that Islamabad was clandestinely developing nuclear weapons.

Pakistan vowed to go nuclear after rival India exploded its first nuclear device in 1974.

Pakistan conducted five nuclear tests just weeks after India carried out three such tests in May 1998.

Beijing is the main supplier of military hardware to Islamabad.

Musharraf’s three-day visit to China ending on Tuesday comes on the heels of unprecedented joint naval exercises between the two countries.

The three-day exercises, which ended last month, were China’s first with the navy of a foreign country.

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