(photo credit: AP [file])
President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday called for Egypt to pursue nuclear energy, as the US ambassador said Washington would be willing to help its Mideast ally develop a peaceful program.
Mubarak echoed a call made earlier this week by his son, Gamal, who many believe is being groomed to succeed his father. The proposal surprised some, who saw it as a jab at the United States, which is locked in a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.
"We must increase our exploitation of new energy sources, including the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," President Mubarak said in a televised speech at the closing session of a three-day conference of his ruling National Democratic Party.
"I call for a serious debate (in Egypt), taking into consideration what nuclear tecnology can provide by way of clean, inexpensive energy sources," he said.
He said Egypt was "not starting from zero. We have knowledge of this technology, enabling us to move forward with it."
US Ambassador to Egypt, Francis Ricciardone, said the United States had no problem with an Egyptian nuclear program and is ready to supply technology to help.
"There is no comparison between Iran and Egypt in this field. Iran has a nuclear weapons program, but using nuclear power for peaceful means is a totally different matter," he told the Egyptian TV station El-Mehwar.
"If Egypt, after detailed study on this subject, decides that nuclear power is a positive thing and important for Egypt, we can cooperate in this field. Why not?" he said.
The 42-year-old Gamal Mubarak made the nuclear proposal during a speech on Tuesday at a conference of the ruling National Democratic Party, where he is the deputy secretary general.
Egypt has conducted nuclear experiments on a very small scale for the past four decades, but they have not included the key process of uranium enrichment, according to the UN's nuclear watchdog.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a 2005 report that the program did not appear to be aimed at developing weapons.