Australia says no change in its uranium policy

Natasha Chaku

Melbourne, Feb 11 (PTI) Brushing aside media reports,Australian government today said there was no change in itsstand on not selling uranium to India until it signs thenon-proliferation treaty and completes a safeguards agreement.

"We will only supply uranium to countries that aresignatories to the NPT and have signed a bilateral agreementwith Australia," Australian Resources Minister MartinFerguson said.

Ferguson, who is a strong supporter of expandinguranium mining and exports, refused to comment on the contentsof a leaked diplomatic cable that disclosed that the rulingLabor government had flagged secretly that it could take yearson the deal to finalise, ''The Age'' reported today.

Earlier, US cables passed to WikiLeaks revealed thatFerguson told US officials in 2009 that a deal to supply Indiawith nuclear fuel could be reached within years, a posturingthat contradicts the present stand of banning it against Indiafor not signing NPT.

Even though some in the then Rudd government alsoprivately supported the idea of selling uranium to India,Labor shot down the previous Howard government process whileit took steps to reform the international nuclear regime.

During the Howard government, Australia took somepreliminary steps to export uranium to India despite the factit was outside the nuclear treaty.

Uranium and nuclear power remains a controversialissue with the present Labor government, but developing bothindustries has support in influential quarters of the party.

A senior Indian government official told the newspaperthat India was disappointed by Australia''s continued refusalto sell it uranium.

"This decision of the Australian government not tosell uranium to our country, it does not make us happy, I willbe frank. We were surprised, because Australia was verysupportive of us during the NPT waiver talks. But we aredealing with the realities as they are," the paper saidquoting the official. PTI NC ZH AKJ

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