Australia for new international nuke disarmament body

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Melbourne, Jun 9 (UNI) Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called for the creation of a new international body to push for nuclear disarmament, and reiterated that Australia will not sell uranium to India until the latter signs the NPT.

Mr Rudd announced his plan to establish an international commission on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament after an emotional visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima this morning, media reports said.

India would not be able to circumvent the NPT by joining the commission as ''the commission that I'm proposing is a non-government body'', he said.

Denying that the plan was a way to allow Australia to sell uranium to India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) , Mr Rudd said he understood the Indian arguments, and added that the US Administration had also put India's case to him, but Labour was firmly behind the NPT.

''Australia has the largest known uranium reserves in the world, we can, therefore, understand the different concerns that different countries bring to this debate,'' the Minister said.

The commission will examine the work of two similar earlier panels, the Australian-led Canberra Commission and Japan's Tokyo Forum, to develop a plan of action for the next nuclear NPT review conference in 2010.

Its first task will be to report to a major international conference of experts in Australia late next year. Mr Rudd will discuss the question of who should co-chair the commission alongside former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Tokyo on Thursday.

Mr Rudd said the NPT was under great pressure with some countries developing nuclear weapons outside its framework and others like North Korea defying the international community and leaving the treaty altogether.

Adressing the students at Kyoto University, Mr Rudd urged the people of the Asia-Pacific region to work together for nuclear disarmament .

''In this 21st century that we, the people of the Asian-Pacific region, should resolve afresh to make the Asia-Pacific century a century of peace and that the world at large should aspire now for a world free of nuclear weapons,'' he said.

UNI XC ARB CS1925

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