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    European Commission to grant Armenia food and nuclear security aid

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    YEREVAN, October 25 (RIA Novosti, Gamlet Matevosyan) - The European Commission will donate $20 million to Armenia for the 2005-2006 Food Security Program, a senior European official said Tuesday.

    Torben Holtze, the head of the European Commission delegation to the Caucasus republics of Armenia and Georgia, said the funds would be spent on agriculture, welfare, and statistical services. He said the commission had stopped funding Armenia's land reform because the five-year program to map the republic's arable lands had been completed.

    Armenia has been receiving European grants under the Food Security Program, which covers four spheres - agriculture, land reform, welfare, and statistics - since 1996.

    Another 5-7 million euros will be granted to Armenia in 2006-2007 to ensure the security of its nuclear power plant, Holtze said. Commissioned in 1980, the plant was shut down for political reasons in 1989 but reopened in 1995 during an acute energy crisis in Armenia.

    Holtze said the commission was not insisting on closing the plant but rather enhancing its security, which has been the commission's policy toward all first-generation plants in other emerging democracies.

    Outfitted with a Russian-made first-generation reactor, the plant's second unit generates up to 40% of Armenia's overall power output and can remain operational until 2016, experts estimate. Since 1993, the republic has received a total of $80 million to improve security at the plant.

    Since September 2003, the plant has been run by an affiliate of Unified Energy Systems and Rosenergoatom, Russia's major electricity producers and its trust managers for a five-year period.

    The EU has said the plant should be shut down temporarily and it would be willing to provide 100 million euros in funding. Armenian experts, however, said building alternative power facilities would require nearly a billion euros.

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