Bolivia 'to build first nuclear reactor'

Evo Morales in the Congress Building, La Paz Evo Morales, a former coca leaf producer, is Bolivia's first president with an indigenous background

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Bolivian President Evo Morales has announced plans to build the country's first nuclear reactor.

Mr Morales said the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes has become a strategic priority for his country.

Speaking to members of the Bolivian Congress, he said that Iran, France and Argentina had volunteered to help with the development of the project.

Only three countries in Latin America have operating nuclear power stations.

Brazil, Argentina and Mexico began their nuclear programmes in the 1970s.

Chile has only small-scale, experimental nuclear reactors.

"Bolivia cannot remain excluded from this technology, which belongs to all humankind," Mr Morales said in his annual state of the union address in La Paz.

"We have decided to create a high-level energy commission. This is a priority of the Bolivian state," he said.

Mr Morales, an outspoken critic of the United States policies in the region, is running for re-election in October.

Last month, Bolivians gathered in the central square in La Paz to cheer the launch of Bolivia's first telecommunications satellite.

President Morales, who went to China for the launch, said it would end Bolivia's dependence on foreign powers for its communications.

The satellite is named Tupak Katari, after an indigenous hero who fought Spanish colonial rule.

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