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Australia rules out export of uranium to India
Natasha Chaku in Canberra | June 23, 2008 11:52 IST
Last Updated: June 23, 2008 19:29 IST
Australia on Monday ruled out the export of uranium to India, which has been making a longstanding demand for supply of this crucial energy source, even as the two countries signed treaties on extradition and mutual assistance in criminal matters.
"We just signed a couple of treaties. The Australian Labour Party has a longstanding position, which is well known. We don't export uranium to a country which is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Australian Foreign Smith told a press conference, with visiting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee by his side, after a meeting between them.
The previous Conservative party government had in principle accepted to export uranium but the Labour government has some strong views on the issue.
Mukherjee himself sought to downplay the issue saying India was aware of the Labour government's position and he has not come to change Canberra's view on that.
He said India's commitment to non-proliferation is 'second to none' and the issue of procuring uranium from Australia will come up once it firms up an international arrangement for nuclear commerce.
Mukherjee also said it was too early to refer to the issue of uranium sale as political discussions back home on implementing the India-United States nuclear agreement were still on.
"I have not come here with one issue of getting uranium from Australia. We are aware of the Labour party position on uranium for quite some time. Australia's commitment to non-proliferation is firm and we respect that," he said at a joint press conference after the meeting.
"As far as our requirement of uranium is concerned, I think it's too early to refer to that as it has been pointed out by Minister Smith...I am really busy back home in the political front in regard to implementing the 123 agreement with the US. Once we have the entire process in place and uranium trade with India is permissible as per the international arrangement, then and there the question will come," he said.
Smith said if and when the 123 Agreement reaches the International Atomic Energy Agency or the Nuclear Supplier's Group, Australia would decide on its response to the agreement.
"We will bear in mind the view, arguments and the importance of the issue to India when we come to that consideration. We have told the US government also that when such a thing happens, Australia will then give its consideration to the proposal," Smith said.
Mukherjee also affirmed that India's commitment to non-proliferation is 'second to none' and the two countries share a common goal of a nuclear-free world.