Deadlock in N-deal may affect deal with Australia

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Sydney, Oct 17: The Australian Government's plan to sell uranium to India is in jeopardy following a ''stalemate'' in talks between India and the US to seal the 123 Agreement to operationalise the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Following reports claiming talks on clinching the precursor to the deal hit a stalemate, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia would need to consult the Indian Government on Canberra's deal with New Delhi over selling uranium.

Plans for a US-India nuclear pact, which would open India up to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), paved the way for Australia's uranium deal with India.

Lowy Institute International Security director Rory Medcalf said there was ''no way'' he could see Australia selling uranium to India ''unless the Indo-US nuclear deal is finalised'', the Age reported.

The deal faces political opposition in India, especially from the Left parties, which are supporting the UPA government from outside.

The 123 Agreement would enable the US to provide nuclear technology and fuel to India in exchange for IAEA safeguards and inspections of civilian reactors. The proposed pact faced stiff opposition in the US too because India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A spokesman for the Opposition Labour party's environment spokesman Peter Garrett reiterated that the party was averse to the Federal Government's plan to sell uranium to India.

''Deal or no deal between India and the US, Labour won't support the sale of uranium to a non-NPT signatory,'' the spokesman said.

Mr Medcalf said the US decision to work with India on nuclear issues triggered the Howard Government's policy change to also engage with India. ''It was really only when the US turned around -- to accepting India's nuclear status-- that most of the rest of the world could contemplate having a civilian nuclear relationship with India,'' he said.

He said if his party won the upcoming elections, the stalling of US-Indian nuclear pact negotiations could ''forestall any possible rift in the Australian-India relationship'' over Labour's pledge to abandon uranium sales.


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