France foots bill for SA power station

France is giving a R15,5-billion (â,¬1,4-billion) coal-fired power station to South Africa as a gesture of friendship. The agreement was signed on Thursday between Buyelwa Sonjica, the Minister of Minerals and Energy Affairs, and Jean-Marie Bockel, the French Deputy Minister for North-South cooperation.

In addition, France will send a team of engineers to South Africa over the coming week to help it resolve a crippling energy crisis, South African President Thabo Mbeki and visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in Cape Town on Thursday.

No indication has been given about when and where the new coal-fired station will be constructed.

The announcement followed the signing of a â,¬1,4-billion deal between state electricity supplier Eskom and French company Alstom, which has been chosen to supply turbines for a new coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga.

Addressing a joint press conference following an hour of bilateral talks Mbeki said: “I raised with the president [Sarkozy] the need for us to get some people, some engineers to help us on an urgent basis to deal with this matter [the energy crisis].”

“The president immediately agreed. In a few days all of those engineers will be here,” Mbeki added.

Sarkozy said the aid was “totally irrespective” of French nuclear giant Areva’s bid to build a nuclear power plant in South Africa.

Areva, which built South Africa’s first nuclear plant at Koeberg near Cape Town, is competing with United States firm Westinghouse-Electric to build a second R120-billion station with twice the output.

Apart from energy, Sarkozy and Mbeki also discussed crises on the African continent, including Darfur.

Sarkozy also announced France and South Africa had been invited by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to send a joint delegation to the country “in the coming days” for talks on resolving the crisis in Darfur.

“I was glad to accept,” he said.—Sapa-dpa

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