CAIRO (Reuters) - The United States could cooperate with Egypt if it decides to develop nuclear energy, the U.S. ambassador to Cairo said on Thursday.
Gamal Mubarak, son of the president and a ruling party official, said this week Egypt should consider exploiting nuclear power as a new source of energy. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said Washington would have no problem with this.
Ricciardone said there could be no comparison between the peaceful use of nuclear technology by Egypt and Iran which the U.N. Security Council has ordered to suspend uranium enrichment.
"If Egypt, after detailed study on this subject, decides that nuclear power is a positive thing and important for Egypt, we can cooperate in this field. Why not?" Ricciardone told al-Mehwar television channel.
"We have a program, the Global Nuclear Energy Program. We are ready to supply nuclear technology to friendly states which want to benefit from civilian, peaceful nuclear power," he said, speaking in Arabic.
Gamal Mubarak told the annual congress of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) this week that Egypt should consider alternative sources of energy, including nuclear power.
Gamal is one of the most influential figures in the NDP.
Analysts, diplomats and opposition politicians believe he has been positioned to take over from 78-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, although Gamal says he does not want the post held by his father since 1981.
The U.S. believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a nuclear energy program. Tehran denies the charge.
"Iran has ... a program to produce nuclear weapons. This is one thing, but the matter of civilian nuclear energy is something totally different," Ricciardone said.
Cairo and Washington have been allies since the late 1970s, when the United States brokered Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.
Egypt, a country of more than 73 million, is the second biggest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, which is thought to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.