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Uranium export ban on India continues, australia PM may face protest

Written by: Staff
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Sydney, March 3 (UNI) Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer's statement reiterating a ban on uranium exports to India may lead Prime Minister John Howard to be greeted with a wave of criticism on his next week's visit to New Delhi.

The main reason for Australia's objection revolves around the fact that India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

''The foundation of our policy is that we export uranium only to countries that have signed the NPT,'' Mr Downer had told a team of visiting Indian journalists earlier this week.

Experts were expecting Australia to relax the ban in the light of the US agreeing to provide India with technical assistance for its civil nuclear programme.

Besides NPT, China is being seen as the other major factor for discouraging export of Australian uranium to the India.

Australia is in the process of signing a supply contract with China which is planning to increase its current capacity of 6,600 MW five-folds in a decade-and-a-half.

The trade delegation led by Mr Howard to India may have to face negative fallout of Mr Downer's NPT stance.

Professor Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research said, ''uranium exports to India is likely to be an issue when Mr Howard meets Indian politicians next week.

''Not only do they put Australia against the US policy of nuclear engagement with India, they also send out a message that Australia is intended on scuttling this nuclear deal between the US and India,'' Professor Chellaney was quoted as saying by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio.

With the US finally relaxing its nuclear leash on India, it was expected Australia, a close ally of the world's most powerful country, would follow suit.

India, which is experiencing a huge increase in demand for energy, needs to expedite its nuclear programme but has not been able to do so because of short supply of uranium.

The South Asian economic powerhouse may have been expecting Australia, which has world's 40 per cent uranium reserves and is the largest exporter of one of the most valuable natural resources, to provide the essential natural fuel to feed its current and planned nuclear power plants.

UNI XC HS PA GC1257

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