France and Egypt today signed a nuclear cooperation agreement under which they agreed to study an eventual French sale of two or more atomic power plants for the long-term Egyptian energy program.
French sources noted that the agreement is formally called a letter of intention because Egypt does not have the money to make a binding commitment to buy the plants.
The signature came during a three-day visit to Paris by President Anwar Sadat to set the seal on a Franco-Egyptian reconciliation after more than two years of strain over French opposition to some aspects of the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord at Camp David.
Sadat met today with a group of five top leaders of the French Jewish community let by Baron Alain de Rothschild and the new grand rabbi of France, Rene Sirat.
Rothschild said he told them that Camp David remains "the keystone" of Middle East peace. This was apparently in response to allegations by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that Sadat had abandoned the terms of the accord by saying in a speech in Luxembourg on Tuesday that he favors Palestinian self-determination and a Palestinian entity.
The French Jewish leader said Sadat had spoken of "tactical differences" with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing over how to achieve overall peace in the Middle East.
An Egyptian purchase of French power reactors would be intended to diversify Egypt's source of supply, a French official noted. Cairo's only other commitment is a 1976 agreement with the United States to buy two 600-megawatt Westinghouse reactors.
Implementation has been blocked by the U.S. policy of balancing its nuclear sales in Egypt with sales to Israel. The Israelis have refused to accept an American demand that any sale of reactors be conditional on Israeli acceptance of international inspection of their nuclear facilities.
Egyptian plans call for eight nuclear power stations to provide 40 percent of the country's electricity by the year 2000.