India and France sign agreement on future civilian nuclear cooperation

India and France signed an agreement Monday on future civilian nuclear cooperation, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

Details were not immediately available, but Singh told reporters the nuclear agreement was inked along with understandings in defense, tourism and other areas.

"We appreciate France's support for the ongoing effort to enable full civilian nuclear energy cooperation between India and the international community," Singh said at a joint news conference with French President Jacques Chirac.

The United States also has a plan to share civilian nuclear technology with India, which has been long cut off from most nuclear trade because of its refusal to sign the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The U.S. agreement, though, has yet to be finalized.

Chirac said after arriving Sunday for a two-day visit that it was "in the interest of everybody that India produce its energy to support its development."

The French leader narrowly sidestepped having the visit overshadowed by a decommissioned French aircraft carrier containing toxic substances. The asbestos-carrying Clemenceau had been on route to India to be dismantled when Chirac ordered it back to France on Wednesday after protests from French and Indian environmental groups and trade unions.

Allegations of French racism in reaction to last month's bid by Mittal Steel Co., run by Indian-born Lakshmi N. Mittal, to buy European steel giant Arcelor SA also had threatened to derail the trip, reports the AP.


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