France is among the world's top users and exporters of nuclear power.  Roughly two-thirds of French electricity is derived from it.  So it may not be surprising that French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a strong pitch for the use of nuclear energy at an international conference in Paris.

Mr. Sarkozy said energy demand will increase 40 percent by 2030, and countries must balance this increase with the fight against climate change.  He said nuclear power, which does not contribute significantly to global warming, is essential to meet these two goals.

Representatives from some 60 nations are gathered at the Paris nuclear energy conference, which continues through Tuesday.  Iran, whose nuclear program is the target of international concern, was not invited to the talks.  But Syria, whose nuclear interests have also raised questions, was present.

Mr. Sarkozy said it is critical that poorer nations gain access to nuclear energy.

The French president said the solution to the world's growing energy needs was not reducing growth and keeping the poor mired in poverty.  He said doing so would close the door to progress and a better life to those who have nothing.

A number of countries, including the United States, are embracing nuclear power as a key element in the energy equation.  But nuclear power is highly controversial, and Mr. Sarkozy's remarks were criticized by groups that want France and other nations to abandon nuclear power.

Critics are concerned about the hazards of nuclear-waste disposal and of chances that deadly nuclear technology could end up in the wrong hands.