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French N-deal in the works

New Delhi, Sept. 15: India is likely to sign a civilian nuclear co-operation pact with France during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Paris at the end of this month.

The pact, initialled during French President Nikolas Sarkozy’s trip to Delhi this January, is in the “last stages” of finalisation, sources said. Last-minute touches on “some procedures” are now being given.

The deal is likely to come with a “fuel supply guarantee” that is not tied to India’s right to conduct a nuclear test, the sources said. Since India won the NSG waiver in Vienna, much dust has been raised on the interpretation of such a clause in the Indo-US deal.

The French pact is also expected to involve co-operation on safety aspects of nuclear reactors, research and development, and possibly re-processing facilities, the sources said.

A similar pact has been finalised with Russia, but can be signed only in December when President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to visit Delhi.

The deal is likely to be high on Prime Minister Singh’s agenda when he holds a summit meeting with Sarkozy on September 29-30 in Paris. Before that, Singh will attend a European Union-India summit in Marseilles.

Sources said the deal, if inked, would be “commercially” and “mutually” beneficial. France, home to 58 reactors, has 34 companies variously involved with the nuclear industry, including building reactors, power distribution and research and development.

French firms such as Areva and Alstom are into building reactors. Areva is also involved in power distribution alongside Electricite de France.

It is already building a sub-station in Bihar along with Power Grid Cooperation, and will work on a Rs 129-crore power transformer project for the Indira Gandhi Super Thermal Power Project in Haryana.

Singh and Sarkozy are believed to have discussed nuclear research co-operation. One of the proposals envisages the participation of the department of atomic energy in the Jules Horowitz Reactor project, to be built by the French Atomic Energy Commission at Cadarache in France.

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