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Tue 25 Mar 2008 03:03 PM

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Bahrain signs nuke accord with US

Washington signs pact with Gulf state as it tries to isolate Iran and weaken influence in region.

Bahrainon Mondaysigned a nuclear energy cooperation agreement withthe US, further isolating neighbour Iran at a time when tensions between Washington and Tehran are at boiling point.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Khalifa.

The official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said the agreement affirmed the kingdom's commitment to developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The memorandum “aims at ensuring stability and diversification of nuclear resources to help develop different industrial sectors”, according to the BNA.

The US State Department said the agreement “reflects Bahrain’s commitment to serve as a model in the region”, a move that “stands in direct contrast to Iran’s nuclear activities”.

The move is the latest attempt by the US to build closer ties with Iran's Gulf Arab neighbours as it tries to further isolate the Islamic republic and weaken its influence in the region.

Wrapping up his tour of the Middle East, US Vice President Dick Cheney said on Monday that Iran's nuclear aspirations continued to hinder the peace process and that the country must meet demands of the international community and give up its nuclear aspirations.

The UN Security Council on March 3 the imposed a third round of sanctions against Iran for refusing to stop the enrichment of uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Iran has vehemently denied that its nuclear programme is for anything other than peaceful, civilian purposes.

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