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Sat 14 Jun 2008 12:51 PM

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Turkey, Syria eye nuclear pact

Two countries considering setting up joint energy company and could build nuclear plants, minister says.

Turkey and Syria are considering setting up a joint energy company and could build joint nuclear power plants for electricity, Syria's oil minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Turkey's state-run Antolian agency quoted Oil Minister Sufian Alao as saying that the two countries will announce the establishment of a joint energy company in the coming days, which could explore for oil in Turkey, Syria and in third countries.

"We could also enter into cooperation in the nuclear field. I spoke to [Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler] Mr. Guler on cooperation. In the future we could found joint nuclear power plants for electricity production," he was quoted as saying.

Washington released intelligence in April which it said showed Syria secretly built an atomic reactor with North Korean help. Damascus, a US foe and ally of Iran, denies any covert nuclear activity and has said it would cooperate with a UN investigation into the allegations.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, is already under pressure from Washington because of its natural gas cooperation with Iran, whose secretive uranium enrichment programme has been under scrutiny since 2003.

The general director of Turkish state energy firm TPAO, Mehmet Uysal, was also quoted as saying the two countries had decided to set up a joint energy company and that a deal could be signed by the end of the year, but did not mention cooperation on nuclear energy.

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