ibnlive » World

Sep 25, 2006 at 11:55am IST

Sign NPT for uranium: Australia to India

Canberra: The Australian government said on Monday it was considering a new push by New Delhi to buy Australian uranium but it had not changed a policy that bans uranium sales to India.

India has repeated a call to buy Australian uranium to help build its nuclear power industry, but Prime Minister John Howard said Australia stood by its policy of not selling to countries that have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

"We are examining all of the implications of the Indian request," Howard told reporters on Monday. Australia only sells uranium to countries which have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and then only after they sign a bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement, as Australia did with China earlier this year.

DOTTED LINE: Australian PM says he is considering India's request but a sale is unlikely now.

Australia has 20 nuclear safeguards agreements covering 37 countries and Howard has long said Australia was keen for further uranium sales. India's latest request comes after it signed a deal with the United States under which it will receive U.S. nuclear technology in return for separating its military and civil nuclear operations and opening civilian plants to international inspections.

Howard sent a team to India to find out more about the deal earlier in the year, and raised the issue in talks in Washington in May. He said on Monday many people would be keen to sell to India, subject to the proper safeguards.

"As time goes by, if India were to meet safeguard obligations, some Australians would see it as anomalous that we would sell uranium to China, but not India," he said, adding nothing had happened since March to change the government's existing policy.

"I don't think there's anything that's happened to justify the re-emphasis on the issue, except that India has repeated her interest in buying Australian uranium."