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China, Pakistan Sign $600 Million Deal For Building Nuclear Power Plant - 2004-05-04

China has signed an agreement to build a second nuclear power plant in Pakistan.

A government statement says that officials from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the China National Nuclear Corporation singed the deal in Islamabad Tuesday. It says Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali witnessed the ceremony along with other top Pakistani officials.

Under the agreement, China will help Islamabad construct a nuclear power plant at Chashma, about 250 kilometers south of the Pakistani capital. Officials say the 300-megawatt plant and will take more than six years to complete, at an estimated cost of $600 million.

China had earlier helped Pakistan to build a nuclear power plant in the same area, which started production about four years ago.

Officials say the new project underlines the close economic cooperation between Pakistan and China, two longtime allies.

Riaz Mohammaed Khan is Pakistan's ambassador in Beijing.

"It will contribute to meeting the energy requirements of Pakistan, which are bound to grow as our economy is growing," he said.

China is the main supplier of military hardware to Pakistan, but both Beijing and Islamabad insist their nuclear cooperation is for peaceful uses and has no military objectives. Pakistani officials maintain their nuclear power plants are under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The country conducted nuclear weapons tests weeks after neighboring India carried out its own tests in May 1998.

Pakistan has come under criticism since early this year, when the creator of its nuclear-weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, a national hero, publicly confessed to selling nuclear secrets to countries, such as Libya, North Korea, and Iran. President Musharraf pardoned the scientist, citing his contribution to Pakistan's national security.

At least four associates of Mr. Khan are under detention and are being questioned for leaking nuclear secrets to other countries.