Lithuania rejects Lukashenko bid for joint nuclear plant

Petras Vaida, BC, Vilnius

European Union member Lithuania has rejected a proposal by neighbouring non-EU Belarus for a joint nuclear power plant amid competition between three similar projects in the region, an official said Thursday. "The Lithuanian president thinks there is no demand for some kind of joint regional nuclear plant," presidential spokesman Linas Balsys told AFP.

Hard-line Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made his proposal at the meeting with Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaite in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Wednesday.

He also pointed to problems that would emerge in managing such a plant since 2004 EU member Lithuania is subject to the 27-member bloc's regulations while the fellow ex-Soviet state but non-EU member Belarus is not, writes LETA/ELTA.

"Lithuania could build a nuclear plant for itself and neighbouring states could do so for themselves," Balsys said.

Within 10 years, Lithuania plans to build a new nuclear power plant to replace the Ignalina facility closed at the end of 2009 in line with an agreement with the EU.

It has invited fellow Baltic EU states Latvia and Estonia as well as neighbouring Poland to join in the project.

Grybauskaite has also rejected a proposal by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to join in a plan for a nuclear plant in Russia's Kaliningrad enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

Lukashenko, who has fallen out with traditional ally Russia, said Belarus has already made progress on its nuclear energy project, criticised by Lithuania on environmental grounds.

"Let's build together. We have already started construction. Why should Lithuania not join this project and agree how much energy you would take," Lukashenko told the Russian-language newspaper Litovskij Kurier.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said Belarus's plans to build the nuclear plant just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Lithuanian capital Vilnius may affect bilateral relations.

"Good neighbours do not build dangerous objects near the state border," he told Lithuanian radio Thursday.


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