RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil â€“ Brazil and France on Tuesday signed an arms deal that could lead to Latin America's first nuclear submarine.
The agreement signed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva calls for France to transfer technology to build four Scorpene type submarines and "develop the non-nuclear part of a nuclear-propelled submarine." The text was posted on the Web site of Brazil's Foreign Ministry.
The Scorpene is a conventional diesel-powered attack vessel that Brazilian officials say will help them develop a nuclear-propelled submarine they would use to protect Brazil's large offshore oil reserves and exploration platforms.
Brazil began a program to develop a nuclear submarine in 1979 and Silva last year announced $540 million in new funding for the program and for uranium enrichment efforts.
The nation has five conventionally powered submarines.
The two countries also agreed to build a submarine base and shipyard in Rio de Janeiro and to have 50 EC 725 Cougar helicopters built by Brazil's Helibras, which is controlled by Eurocopter, a branch of the French-German defense group EADS.
"The agreements will enable Brazil to give the technological leap needed to restructure its armed forces and set in motion its new defense strategy," Silva said.
Brazil said last week that it will beef up troops in its vast Amazon rain forest, build nuclear and conventional submarines to protect offshore oil fields and modernize its weapons industry under a new national defense plan.
"France is not only willing to sell planes, ships and helicopters, it is also willing to transfer technology to build them here in Brazil," Silva said.
Other agreements call for cooperation in the fields of nuclear energy, education, science and technology and joint projects between the French National Space Studies Center and the Brazilian Space Agency.
The two countries also agreed to foster sustainable development of the Amazon rain forest along the border shared by the Brazilian state of Amapa and French Guiana.
Sarkozy and French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy will remain in the country through Dec. 29, a French consular official said, refusing to give any details because "it will be a private visit." The official declined to be identified because she was not authorized to speak on the matter.
The French first lady's biological father, Italian businessman Maurizio Remmert, lives in Sao Paulo.
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In: News, Arts and Entertainment
Tags: brazil, france, arms, weapon, submarine
Location: Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil (load item map)
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