Progress on uranium sale to India on expected lines: Aus PM

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Melbourne, Jun 3: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that the progress on uranium sale to India was moving on expected lines and discussions were underway between the two sides to put a safeguards agreement in place.

"The progress is as we expected it. The main thing was to get away from the problem that prevented Australia into entering uranium sale with India," Gillard told PTI. "We are working on the safeguards agreement and they inevitably take some time. But discussions are underway," she said.

Gillard made the comments during a function where she also addressed a group of supporters of her Labor Party, especially from Indian and other South Asian communities. Negotiations on the uranium deal have already been kicked off and officials from both sides were now in a process to put a safeguards agreement in place.

However, it is said that the actual sale could take at least two years to start.

India will be the first customer that is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to get Australian uranium. Gillard had earlier said Australian uranium was only meant for civilian purposes, feeding India's growing nuclear power industry.

"We know how to negotiate these agreements because we have done it in the past and we have done it on the basis that Australian uranium is only used for peaceful purposes, that the International Atomic Energy Agency is involved in oversight, and that the nation that we sell uranium to has an appropriate protocol with the IAEA," she had said during her last year's visit to New Delhi.

Australia holds about a third of the world's recoverable uranium resources, and exports nearly 7000 tonnes a year. On her next visit to India, Gillard said as of this year she was very focussed on her forthcoming federal elections to be held in September.

"I have some work to do internationally but my focus will be on domestic fronts. I have travelled to India twice and I have loved each time and I look forward to go in future," Gillard said.

PTI

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