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MOSCOW (AFP) — Libya and Russia signed a civil nuclear cooperation deal Saturday, Tripoli's foreign minister said, as Moamer Kadhafi visited Moscow for talks he said could help restore "geopolitical equilibrium".
The Libyan leader's first visit to Moscow since 1985, the Cold War era, and which included meetings with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was also expected to focus on oil and gas and arms purchases.
While Russian officials did not confirm the nuclear accord, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelrahman Chalgham described it as touching on a range of issues.
"A cooperation agreement was signed in the area of the peaceful use of civilian nuclear, particularly in the design and construction of reactors and the supply of nuclear fuel," said Abdelrahman Chalgham, who accompanied Kadhafi.
The deal also extended to nuclear use in medicine and nuclear waste treatment, he said.
The Kremlin made no comment, and Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no such agreement had been signed during the meeting between Kadhafi and Putin.
According to sources in the Libyan delegation, the deal was signed by the head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Rosatom, and Libya's head of nuclear energy management.
Chalgham said the two countries also signed agreements related to calls for the creation of an OPEC-style body for gas-producing countries, among others.
Kadhafi had earlier spoken of cooperating on energy.
"Cooperation in the gas and oil sphere is extremely important now," the leader of energy-rich Libya told Medvedev, speaking through a Russian translator.
"We will discuss economic issues and coordination in the foreign-policy sphere, matters which are very important at the moment," Medvedev said.
At his meeting with Putin, Kadhafi said "the development of our bilateral relations is a positive factor for the international situation ... It contributes to the reestablishment of geopolitical equilibrium."
Putin said the two delegations would discuss "big common projects", adding he was "sure that this visit will stimulate the development of our relations in all areas".
Vedomosti newspaper reported Saturday that Kadhafi may sign a pact on nuclear energy cooperation. The newspaper cited a source involved in preparations for his visit who did not give details.
Russia has reportedly been in talks to build a nuclear power plant in Libya, for years a diplomatic pariah that in recent years has rejoined the international community.
Other expected topics included a multi-billion-dollar deal to upgrade Libya's Soviet-era arsenal and lucrative contracts for Russian firms.
Libya might also offer to host a Russian naval base at the Mediterranean port of Benghazi, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Friday.
"The Russian military presence will be a guarantee of non-aggression against Libya from the United States," it said.
Kommersant added that Moscow wanted Tripoli to join it in a "gas OPEC" with Qatar. Russia, Iran and Qatar said last month they were forming a joint forum for gas projects but stopped short of advocating an OPEC-style cartel.
However, on Saturday Russian papers seemed more interested in the Libyan leader's travel arrangements, with the Izvestia daily running the headline: "Kadhafi set up his tent in the Kremlin."
Kadhafi brings a traditional Bedouin tent along with him on state visits, which he uses to host guests. An AFP journalist saw a small fire burning in front of the khaki-coloured tent Saturday in the Kremlin's Tainitsky Garden.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Kremlin source said ahead of the visit that the two would discuss "the peaceful atom" as well as "military-technical cooperation," a term that typically describes arms purchases.
Libya could buy more than two billion dollars (1.5 billion euros) of Russian arms including surface-to-air missiles, tanks and fighter planes, Interfax news agency reported Friday, citing a Russian defence industry source.
Relations have warmed this year between Russia and Libya, which began to shed its pariah status in 2003 when it renounced weapons of mass destruction and took responsibility for a 1988 airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people.
In April, during a visit to Tripoli by then-president Putin, Moscow agreed to cancel billions of dollars of Libyan Soviet-era debt in exchange for big contracts for Russian companies.
According to Libyan sources in Moscow, Kadhafi is expected to visit Ukraine and Belarus after his visit to Russia.