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Jordan intends to build its first nuclear power plant by 2015, the Jordanian energy minister said yesterday, and his staff is now working on a timetable for implementing the project. Israel's eastern neighbor will use nuclear energy for various purposes such as electricity and desalination.

Energy Minister Khaled Sharida said Jordan would also be initiating power projects from solar and wind energy.

Sharida has a doctorate in nuclear physics from a Dutch university. The Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported yesterday that Jordanian universities would begin teaching this field to prepare the country to operate nuclear facilities. Sharida said the plan was the result of "Arab trends accepted by the West."

This month the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, will come to Jordan to discuss cooperation between the agency and the kingdom.

Jordan is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, according to which the IAEA monitors nuclear projects for peaceful purposes in countries seeking to establish a nuclear reactor.

Jordanian King Abdullah's brother Hamzah has reportedly been made head of the country's energy committee, which will map out the kingdom's needs for the coming years. Jordan's deserts reportedly contain 2 percent of the world's uranium reserves.

A few months ago, Egypt announced its intention to renew a nuclear project halted about two decades ago.

There are reports of nuclear plans in other countries including Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.