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Foreign uranium deals unchanged, says Kazakh firm Add to ...

Kazakh state uranium firm Kazatomprom assured foreign partners on Friday it would honour all existing agreements after the arrest of its former chief caused uncertainty over supplies of the nuclear fuel.

Investors in Kazakhstan, which has a fifth of the world's uranium reserves and is expected to become the world's top producer this year, were rattled last month when security agents detained Mukhtar Dzhakishev and other industry executives.

In a statement on Friday, state-controlled Kazatomprom said it held talks with foreign companies including Canada's Uranium One over the last two weeks.

"During those meetings, (our) partners stressed the strategic nature of our mutually beneficial relationship and their aspiration to continue cooperating in the nuclear sector," said Kazatomprom.

"Kazatomprom for its part declared that none of the existing agreements would be changed. ... All production plans are being carried out on time. All export supplies are being carried out according to plan."

Kazatomprom's partners also include major global players Toshiba Corporation, TEPCO and Chubu Electric, which have teamed up with it to tap major uranium fields in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan.

Widespread interest in nuclear power, stimulated by worries over carbon emissions and high prices of fossil fuels, have raised the importance of Kazakhstan's uranium resources.

Mr. Dzhakishev, sacked from the post of Kazatomprom president shortly before his arrest in late May, is accused of illegally gaining control over 60 percent of Kazakhstan's uranium resources.

He could not be reached for comment and his wife, who has accused the authorities of not allowing her to meet her husband, has said the allegations against him were fabricated. The KNB security service has quoted him as denying any wrongdoing.

Mr. Dzhakishev made Kazatomprom a global player and signed most cooperation deals with foreign companies.

The country on the Caspian Sea, which has major oil and gas reserves, has long been praised for economic and political stability but Mr. Dzhakishev's arrest has stirred long-standing divisions within the ruling and business elites.

Addressing a meeting with foreign investors separately on Friday, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev did not touch on the case but said his nation was committed to law and justice.

"I would like to emphasise to you -- Kazakhstan was and remains committed to the principle of a market economy, the protection of the rights of private ownership and the independence of signed contracts," he said.

Government officials could not be reached for comment this week. The new Kazatomprom boss, Vladimir Shkolnik, and the government have not publicly commented on the case.

Kazatomprom Vice President Sergei Yashin separately told reporters foreign companies had shown willingness to keep working in Kazakhstan.

"All of our strategic partners have visited us over the past two weeks ... and we have discussed the problem, the issue which has today risen around Kazatomprom," he said.

"I can say that all companies confirmed that they will work in Kazakhstan, that they will work with Kazatomprom, that all the programs we had agreed on will continue to be developed."

Kazakhstan produced 8,521 tonnes of uranium last year, up from 6,637 in 2007. It plans to raise output to 12,200 to 2,300 tonnes this year.

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