March 20, 2019 / 3:41 PM / 3 months ago

Qatar says UAE nuclear plant is threat to regional stability

* Qatar calls on IAEA to create regional safety framework

* UAE says plant is safe and built to highest standards

* UAE delays Barakah start-up date for third time

By Geert De Clercq

PARIS/ABU DHABI, March 20 (Reuters) - The State of Qatar says the Barakah nuclear plant under construction in the United Arab Emirates poses a serious threat to regional stability and the environment and has called on the IAEA to create a framework for nuclear security in the Gulf.

In a letter to International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, seen by Reuters, the Foreign Affairs Ministry says that Qatar has "serious concerns regarding the operation of the nuclear power plant located at Barakah".

"The State of Qatar believes that the lack of any international co-operation with neighbouring states regarding disaster planning, health and safety and the protection of the environment pose a serious treat to the stability of the region and its environment," the letter states.

The UAE denied that there are safety issues with the plant, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and will be operated by French utility EDF.

"The United Arab Emirates ... adheres to its commitment to the highest standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation," Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the IAEA said in a statement to Reuters.

In the same statement, the UAE again delayed the start-up date for the plant, saying it was now expected to go into operation by 2020. The plant had been set to open in 2017 but startup has already been delayed twice due to problems with training operating staff.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that it supports terrorism, a charge Doha denies. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq Additional reporting by Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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