MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday stressed the opportunities for Russia and Turkey to work together in the area of nuclear power.

Turkey is set to build three nuclear power stations to begin service in 2012 as part of a drive to reduce its dependency on Russian and Iranian gas. Construction of the first power station is expected to start in 2007.

"There are great opportunities for cooperation before us in the domain of electricity and atomic energy," Putin said at a press conference alongside his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

The state-owned Russian nuclear construction company Atomstroiexport said it was "ready" to take part in Turkey's nuclear power program.

The Turkish president focused on the gas sector and underlined the partnership of both countries in the construction of the Blue Stream gas pipeline, which began transporting Russian gas under the Black Sea to Turkey in December 2002.

Economic relations between the countries have deepened since the the fall of communism in Russia and Turkey is now Russia's sixth-biggest trading partner, a bigger trading partner than France or the United States, according to official Russian data.

"In 1991, trade (between Russia and Turkey) represented just 1.5 billion dollars. In 2005, it measured 15 billion," said Sezer.

06/29/2006 14:07 GMT

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