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Australia's uranium pact comes with a tag
August 16, 2007 19:12 IST
Defending Australia's decision to lift the ban on uranium sales to India, its premier John Howard on Thursday spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] after which he announced that the two countries would negotiate a uranium trade pact. Howard also said India was an "influential regional power and a potential strategic partner for Australia".
"Australia has decided in principle to export uranium to India, subject to India agreeing to very stringent safeguards and conditions," Howard said in Canberra shortly after he had a telephonic conversation with Singh.
"I spoke to the Indian prime minister. He has welcomed the government's decision," he said, noting that India had "a very good non-proliferation track record".
Howard's announcement came even as Australian government's chief nuclear adviser Ziggy Switkowski said he expected a ban on nuclear testing by India to be part of any deal.
"Our officials will now enter into negotiations regarding the conditions. We want to be satisfied that the uranium will only be used for peaceful purposes,'' he said.
Australia holds 40 per cent of the world's reserves of the nuclear fuel. Howard's cabinet agreed in principle earlier this week to sell the nuclear fuel to India despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Earlier, Howard told Parliament that India would have to agree to international inspections of its nuclear power plants and complete the details of its nuclear partnership pact with the US. He said safeguards to prevent the use of the nuclear fuel in weapons would be put in place.
Howard, a strong supporter of US President George Bush [Images], also said the sales to India would depend on the implementation of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington.
"It has indicated that it does not intend to join the nuclear NPT. So we think it's worthwhile finding practical ways to bring it into the non-proliferation mainstream," Howard said.