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No plans to sell uranium to India: Australian PM

Written by: Staff
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Sydney, March 5 (UNI) Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who is scheduled to fly into India later today for an official three-day visit, reiterated that his country has no plans of selling uranium to the South Asian nation.

''We're certainly not going to suddenly change our policy just because the Indians and the Americans have reached an agreement,'' Mr Howard told reporters before setting off for India here today.

The Prime Minster was indicating to the recent Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, signed during the recent visit of President George W Bush, which assures India of permanent uranium supply to meet its energy needs.

Australia controls about 40 percent of world's uranium reserves besides being one of the largest exporters of the mineral.

Mr Howard also ruled out free trade agreement with India.

''We're not looking to have a free trade agreement as such, I think it is too early in the relationship to even contemplate that,'' the Australian PM said.

''The whole purpose of the visit is to see if there are ways to see if we can improve trade association in the end,'' he said.

During the visit, Mr Howard would be meeting the Indian President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, along with other dignitaries. He would be visiting New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai on this event-packed tour.

''It's important that we do what we can to strengthen the economic relationship with India,'' he said.

''I'll be accompanied by a very high-level business delegation which will also include the vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne and will be a body that is representative of all of the business sectors,'' Australian leader said.

Mr Howard has called India as one of the ''great coming powers of the world'' and reiterated his resolve to strengthen its economic relationship with the South Asian country.

Though a number of business sectors would be involved in extensive talks during the tour, Mr Howard would try to lure even more Indian students to Australian universities during his second major trade mission ever.

Australian universities will be one of the issues discussed during the hectic tour which follows in the footsteps the American President George Bush.

Melbourne University vice-chancellor Professor Glyn Davis is among the Australian business delegation accompanying the Australian PM.

''Australia is a very attractive place for overseas students,'' Mr Howard told reporters.

''We do take a lot of students from India, we take a lot of migrants from India and it's very important therefore that we take every opportunity to expand the linkages,'' he said.

There are all positive symptoms that Indo-Australia trade and political links would ascend to new heights in the coming years.

Beside education, tourism, natural resources, etc. India and Australia are also about to sign a revised air services agreement between India and Australia. The deal would allow designating of as many airlines as the two nations wished for.

UNI XC DH VP0810

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