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Obama backs Australia's u-turn on uranium sale to India

November 16, 2011 19:17 IST

United States President Barack Obama on Wednesday virtually backed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's plans to sell uranium to India saying it "seemed to be compatible with international law and the Non-Proliferation Treaty".

"India is a big player and the Australia-India relationship is one that should be cultivated," Obama said in his apparent support to Gillard's u-turn on Tuesday in which she expressed the country's interest to sell uranium to India.

In a lighter vein, US President, who arrived in the country on Wednesday, said, "I will watch with interest what's determined" as he refuted today's report that his administration had influenced Gillard's decision.

'The Australian' daily had reported that Gillard had moved to lift the ban this week in a bid to strengthen the relation with the fast growing economic powerhouse and "there was some speculation that it was at the urging of the US."

The newspaper said the Obama administration saw Australia's refusal to sell India uranium as "a roadblock to greater engagement between Washington and New Delhi."

However Obama responding to a question said, "I don't think Julia or anybody else needs my advice in figuring that out".

Obama added, "We have not had any influence I suspect on Australia's decision to explore what its relationship in terms of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in India might be," he said.

Obama said Gillard's plan seemed to be compatible with international law and the NPT and added "this is not something between the US and Australia, this is something between India and Australia".

Gillard had on Tuesday said Australia cannot afford to miss out on the jobs and economic benefits a policy change would bring.

She will take the policy shift to next month's annual ALP conference.

Although Australia uses no nuclear power, the country is the world's third largest uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada exporting 9,600 tonnes of oxide concentrates worth USD 1.1 billion each year.

Natasha Chiku in Melbourne
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