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Australia ban on uranium sales to India stays--Downer

Written by: Staff

SYDNEY, Mar 12 (Reuters) Australia will maintain its ban on uranium exports to India and other countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.

His comments dashed hopes in New Delhi that the stance could be softened to help India meet soaring energy demand.

Downer said he would not change Australia's 30-year-old policy of not exporting uranium to treaty non-signatories.

''There's no basis at this stage for us changing that policy now,'' he told ABC Television.

''We don't have any intention at this stage to change our policy in relation to uranium exports to those three countries, which are India, Pakistan and Israel, that haven't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,'' he added.

India's request to buy uranium from Australia, which has almost half the world's known resources, followed a landmark deal between India and the United States on civil nuclear energy, reached during a visit by US President George Bush in early March.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, during his own visit to India last week, made positive noises about the US agreement and left officials upbeat on the prospect of expanding a nuclear energy industry which accounts for just three per cent of output.

Downer said he was still keen to see the finer details of the US-Indian nuclear technology trading agreement.

Reuters VJ VP0710

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