updated 11/5/2006 3:55:14 PM ET 2006-11-05T20:55:14

At least six Arab countries are developing domestic nuclear power programs to diversify energy sources, a Middle East economic magazine reported on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have shown interest in developing nuclear power primarily for water desalination, the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) quoted Tomihiro Taniguchi, deputy director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as saying.

“We held preliminary discussions with these governments. We will offer them help under our technical advisory programme to conduct a study for the power plants,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the interest the four nations had shown was “at a tertiary stage.”

The United Arab Emirates and Tunisia have also shown interest in nuclear power, but their plans are at an infant stage, the magazine said.

Analysts say that besides the need for alternative energy sources, many Arab countries are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Western powers are attempting to forge a U.N. resolution to force Iran to suspend its nuclear program.

Iran says it has a right to develop nuclear fuel, which it says it wants for peaceful goals, but which the West fears will be used to make atomic bombs.

Egypt’s nuclear program is the Arab world’s most advanced. Russia is looking to take part in a tender to construct nuclear power stations in the country, a Russian official said this week.

Egypt has ordered studies into building atomic power stations after President Hosni Mubarak in September called for a national dialogue on the issue.

MEED said Algeria’s plans were the next most advanced after Egypt.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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