Novo-Ogaryovo, Russia: Russia and Egypt signed an agreement on Tuesday opening the way for Russian firms to bid for lucrative contracts to build nuclear power plants in Egypt.

The nuclear energy deal was signed after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak met near the Russian capital for talks which also covered Moscow's plan to host a Middle East peace conference.

"Egypt, in cooperation with its international partners and the International Atomic Energy Agency is going to develop this [nuclear energy] sector, including through the agreement we have just signed," Mubarak told reporters.

Egypt wants up to four nuclear power stations and an international tender to build the first of them may come this year. Yesterday's agreement clears the way for Russia's state nuclear contractor to bid for work. After about two hours of talks, Putin said his officials were consulting with the US and Middle East nations about hosting a regional peace conference.

'Role model': US, Bahrain sign pact

The US and Bahrain yesterday agreed to cooperate on civil nuclear power in a deal the State Department held out as model for nations to meet their energy needs. Bahrain said it would not seek sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies and would buy fuel on the international market.