Russia, Armenia ink nuclear agreement

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Moscow, Feb 6 (UNI) Russia and former Soviet republic Armenia have inked a nuclear agreement to join the International Uranium Enrichment Center located in Siberia.

The agreement was signed after talks between visiting Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to the former Soviet Republic and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisyan.

''This is an important document that will create conditions for Armenia to join the nuclear non-proliferation regime,'' Russian Nuclear Chief Sergei Kiriyenko told RIA Novosti news agency after talks between both the premiers.

Russian Nuclear Chief Kiriyenko said the two countries would establish a joint venture to prospect and produce uranium in Armenia, whose uranium deposits are estimated at up to 60,000 metric tonnes.

''Armenia and Russia will each hold 50 per cent in the joint venture,'' he said, adding that Russia would invest 3 million dollar in additional prospecting in Armenia.

The Uranium Enrichment Centre is a part of Moscow's non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centres under the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA's supervision.

It will be based at a chemicals plant in Angarsk, Siberia. The Centre will also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Uranium enrichment is planned to begin in Angarsk in 2013.

Kazakhstan joined the Russian initiative in 2006, when the Central Asian state, which holds 15 per cent of the world's uranium reserves, signed an agreement with Russia to set up their first enrichment joint venture.

Ukraine, another former Soviet republic, has also expressed its desire to join the project.

Russia previously said it would grant any country the use of the future uranium centre, proposed by President Vladimir Putin to defuse tension over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

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