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Paris, Sep 30 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the signing of the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with France, the first country with which the pact was signed after the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver, added a new dimension to the Indo-French Strategic Partnership.

In an opening statement at his bilateral Summit meeting with Russian President Nicholas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace here, the Prime Minister said his visit had opened new vistas in Indo-French relations based on tthe solid foundation of shared commitment to democracy, pluralism and rule of law.

''Today we have added a new dimension to our Strategic partnership by signing an inter-governmental agreement on civil nuclear cooperation. France is the first country with whom we have entered into such an agreement after the lifting of international restrictions on civil nuclear cooperation with India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. I (have) conveyed to President Sarkozy our gratitude to France's consistent support to our civil nuclear initiative,'' the Prime Minister said.

Describing President Sarkozy as a ''great friend of India' and an international statesman,'' the Prime Minister said the two had reviewed at their bilateral Summit meeting progress in cooperation in trade and investment, science and technology, space, defence, culture and education since President Satrkozy's visit to India in January, The two leaders discussed the impact of the international financial crisis on global economy, energy security, food security and climate change.

They agreed on the need to reform international institutions, including the UN, and enhance cooperation against global terrorism.

The Prime Minister also invited French Premier Francois Filton to visit India.

He said both leaders had agreed that Defence cooperattion between the two countries should move away from a buyer-seller relationship to joint production and to transfer of technology.

Both leaders agreed on the need to working towards promoting and facilitating investments in either country, noting that they were on the course of achieving the raised trade target of 12 billion euros by 2012.

They said they would continue to encourage initiatives aimed at promoting exchanges of students, researchers and academics and at deepening institutional linkages between the Universities in the two countries.

UNI RB GT HT1740

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