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India, Russia sign nuclear energy, space deals

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 5, 2008
Russia on Friday signed landmark accords with its traditional ally India on issues ranging from nuclear energy to space, as President Dmitry Medvedev met Indian leaders in a bid to bolster ties.

The accords covered the building of four new nuclear energy reactors in Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as well as a cooperation accord on manned space flight.

Russia becomes the third country to sign an atomic energy agreement with India after a decision in September by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to waive its ban on trade of nuclear technology with India.

The United States and France are the other powers to have signed agreements with New Delhi.

Moscow is already building two 1,000-megawatt light water reactors at the site. The value of the new deal was not given.

The two sides also signed an accord that envisages Russia sending an Indian cosmonaut into space in 2013 and then launch a manned Indian spacecraft in 2015, officials said.

Another deal on the sale to India of 80 military helicopters was also signed.

Medvedev is the first head of state to visit India following Islamic militant attacks on Mumbai a week ago which left 172 people dead. He has already pledged Moscow's support to India in the anti-terror fight.

"The terrorist threat is not over for our country," said Medvedev in an interview with Indian public television. "We are ready to have cooperation (with India) in all areas with the aim of preventing such terror attacks."

He was welcomed with a full military salute at the presidential palace and then laid a wreath at the memorial to India's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, before heading into talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The string of accords underline that ties between Moscow and New Delhi -- which date back to the Soviet Union -- continue to be strong, despite India's desire to also build relations with the United States.

Energy-hungry India has signed cooperation pacts with France and the United States since the ban was lifted, meaning Russia now faces competition in the market.

"We are not scared of competition. Russian technology can compete," the head of Russia's nuclear agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, told reporters.

He said it was too early to discuss the possibility of Russia building two more reactors in Kudankulam for a total of eight but said that after Friday's signing, "we can start talks about new agreements."

Moscow is also keen to retain its position as India's main supplier of weaponry amid increasing competition from the United States and Israel.

Russia, which supplies 70 percent of Indian military hardware, has been concerned that its slice of the defence market risks becoming leaner amid disputes over costs and late deliveries.

The wide main streets of central Delhi have been decorated with Russian flags to welcome Medvedev but the visit is taking place under the tightest security with a visible police presence.

The continued strength of ties between Moscow and New Delhi contrasts with the sometimes prickly relationship between Russia and India's long-time foe Pakistan.

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Iran To Send Animals Into Space
Tehran, Iran (RIA Novosti) Dec 03, 2008
Iran plans to send exploratory rockets into space with live animals on board, paving the way for manned space flights, a space research official said on Tuesday.

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