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    France to help Brazil build first Latin American nuclear sub

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    France will assist Brazil in the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine to protect vast oil reserves off its coast, the Brazilian defense minister said Tuesday.

    RIO DE JANEIRO, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - France will assist Brazil in the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine to protect vast oil reserves off its coast, the Brazilian defense minister said Tuesday.

    Speaking during large-scale military exercises along the Brazilian coast, Nelson Jobim said a massive technology transfer from France was essential to Brazil's hopes of building a nuclear submarine.

    "We will build the nuclear submarine together. Brazil will be responsible for the conventional part of the project," he said.

    According to the minister, Brazil and France discussed the technology transfer in January at talks in France, and a relevant agreement could be signed before the end of this year during the official visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Brazil.

    If the deal is successful, Brazil hopes to have the vessel built by 2020 and become the first Latin American nation to possess a nuclear-powered submarine. The deal would also include the joint construction of four diesel-powered submarines.

    Brazil, with its nuclear power plants, vast reserves of uranium, advanced refinement capabilities, trained nuclear scientists and various research facilities, and Argentina are the only Latin American countries with significant nuclear capabilities.

    The Brazilian military, which has five conventionally powered submarines in service with the Navy, has been seeking to build a nuclear submarine for decades amid worries about the security of its offshore oil reserves.

    The current Operation Atlantic exercises to thwart a simulated attack on Brazilian oil drilling facilities involve 20 ships, several submarines, 9,000 troops and as many as 50 aircraft.

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