Sarkozy and Indian PM Singh set for talks in Delhi

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday in New Delhi, with nuclear power and defence deals likely to be high on the agenda.

The French president is on a four-day trip to India, during which he has joined other recent visiting leaders such as US President Barack Obama in acknowledging his hosts' increased role on the world stage.

Sarkozy heads a delegation of six ministers and around 70 chief executives, including the heads of aircraft and defence groups Dassault Aviation and EADS, and the state-controlled nuclear conglomerate Areva.

France is seeking a slice of the billions of dollars earmarked by India for a military upgrade, but competition is fierce among foreign arms manufacturers, and officials in New Delhi have said no contracts will be signed on Monday.

Talks will also focus on Areva's involvement in building nuclear reactors in India, which is expanding fast in atomic energy and hopes to see nuclear power account for 25 percent of its electricity supplies by 2050.

Sarkozy's visit to India is his first to a G20 state since France took the presidency of the group of developed and major developing economic powers.

In talks with Singh, he is expected to push his plans for overhauling the global monetary system and combating commodity price volatility.

The president and his wife Carla Bruni, a singer and former model, went sight-seeing at the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri on Sunday after a romantic sunset visit to the Taj Mahal on Saturday evening.

The French leader last visited India in 2008, just before he married Bruni, and he vowed then to return with her to see the Taj Mahal, located in the city of Agra 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Delhi.

"It was Bruni's first visit to the Taj and she seemed completely floored by what she saw," the Times of India reported on Sunday.

The couple flew to Delhi on Sunday evening and attended a dinner at Prime Minister Singh's residence.

Sarkozy began his Indian trip in the southern city of Bangalore, a major technology centre, where he reiterated France's support for India to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

He also welcomed cooperation in space that will lead the two countries to jointly launch satellites to monitor the climate and oceans next year, and expressed a desire for more Indians to study in France.

He completes his visit on Tuesday with a trip to Mumbai, India's commercial capital that was hit by Islamist militant attacks two years ago in which 166 people were killed.

© 2010 AFP

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