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No immediate change in nuke policy with India: Australia

Written by: Staff

Sydney, Mar 28: Australian Prime Minister John Howard today confirmed that a nuclear deal with China could be signed during Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Canberra next week but turned down any possibility of ''immediate change'' in his government's policy for India.

Addressing a press conference at Canberra, Mr Howard said the deal could be signed during Chinese Prime Minister's visit from April 1 to April 4, but asserted that the deal would not put any pressure on Australia to negotiate a similar agreement with India, which recently signed a civil nuclear technology deal with the United States.

Australian Prime Minister said he supported the recent civil nuclear deal arranged by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the US President George W Bush during the latter's visit to New Delhi, under which India agreed to open its civil nuclear plants to inspections in turn for nuclear fuel and technology from the US.

He also appreciated India's move to separate its military and civil nuclear facilities, but said it does not mean Australia is considering a change in its uranium trade policy.

Mr Howard commended India's ''impeccable'' nuclear non-proliferation record since the first atomic test in 1974, and said ''people have to bear (the fact) in mind.'' But, he added, ''You should not think that there is going to be an immediate change of government (Australia) policy.'' However, Austarlia has said it will be sending officials to India next month to know more about Indo-US nuclear deal.

China is expected to build 40 to 50 nuclear power plants over the next 20 years, while India is also looking to boost its nuclear power industry, which currently accounts for only three per cent of energy production.

To import Australian uranium a country has to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a separate nuclear safeguards deal with Canberra.

China has signed the NPT but India, which conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and again in 1998, is not a signatory the treaty.


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