SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil is seeking to buy military technology from France that could help it become the first country in Latin America to have a nuclear submarine, the Defense Ministry said on Monday.

Defense Minister Nelson Jobim traveled to France last week to discuss the possible purchase of a diesel-powered Scorpene class submarine that would "serve as a model for the development of a nuclear submarine, which is the main objective of his visit," said Defense Ministry spokesman Jose Ramos.

"Any defense-related agreement that may eventually be signed with France must include the transfer of technology," Ramos said, noting that while Brazil has nuclear reactors and fuel enrichment capacity, it has not had the technology to build a nuclear submarine.

Ramos declined to confirm a report, published Monday by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, that Brazil would buy the submarine for $600 million.

Brazil began a formal nuclear submarine program in 1979. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced $540 million in new funding for the program and for existing uranium enrichment efforts last July.

If an agreement results in the construction of a nuclear submarine, then "Brazil will surely become the first country in Latin America to have one," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan research group.