Putin, Mubarak sign agreement on nuclear cooperation

At meeting outside Moscow, two leaders discuss touted Russian peace conference, Egypt's plans to build nuclear power plant.

mubarak putin 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
mubarak putin 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested Tuesday that progress is needed before Russia can firm up plans for a Mideast peace conference it hopes to host this year. After talks with visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Putin said Russia is talking to all the sides involved. "As soon as we understand that we can come to agreements that can gradually be advanced, we will consider ourselves to have reached the final stage of preparations," Putin said. "We consider it expedient to begin such preparations." Putin stressed that while Russia hopes to host the meeting, it does not want to dictate conditions. "We do not intend to force anything on anyone," he said. "It's important that all sides be equally interested in positive results from this meeting, if it takes place." Mubarak's visit to Moscow produced an agreement opening the door for Russian participation in Egypt's nuclear energy program, and enabled him to get acquainted with President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's protege and hand-picked successor. Putin assured Mubarak there will be few changes in ties between the two nations - and, he suggested, in Russia's overall foreign policy - after Medvedev becomes president in May. "I am absolutely certain that that after the new president takes office the course for the development of relations will be continued, and the guarantee of such development of relations is not the taste preferences of some political leaders or others but the deep interests of our peoples," Putin said. He said one realm of cooperation between Russia and Egypt is energy and that "in this, there will be no pauses and disruptions." Medvedev has been chairman of the state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom for most of Putin's eight-year presidency. Medvedev has said he will name Putin as his prime minister, sparking speculation about who will really hold Russia's reins and whether a new president will bring policy changes. On the surface, Mubarak said, Putin and Medvedev are difficult to tell apart. "There is little difference between the two of you. You look alike. On the way to my meeting with Mr. Medvedev I saw you on television, and I was lost trying to guess who is who," Mubarak said, speaking through an interpreter. "Despite the similar looks, the president-elect will certainly have his own style," Putin said. "He is one of the authors of Russia's foreign policy and in that sense he is absolutely on top of things," Putin added, giving Medvedev some credit for creating the assertive foreign policy Russia has pursued during his presidency but also suggesting he would not strike out in new directions. Medvedev stressed on the day he was elected that under the Russian constitution, the president sets foreign policy, but also that he would pursue the same agenda Putin has. "I hope the good, trusting relations that link you and President Putin will be preserved between us," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Medvedev as telling Mubarak in a separate meeting in the Kremlin. Russian and Egyptian officials signed an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation that comes as Egypt is seeking a foreign partner to help build its first nuclear power plant. Russia is building reactors in several countries and seeking further to expand its nuclear energy industry abroad.