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'Aus uranium deal with India doubtful'

world Updated: Aug 16, 2007 12:44 IST

Doubts are emerging about Australia's plans to export uranium to India even before the prime ministers of the two countries meet to discuss cabinet's decision in favour of the yellow cake shipment.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer warned on Wednesday that no uranium would be exported to India until the conclusion of the agreement between the US and India on nuclear power.

On Tuesday, the national security committee of cabinet decided in principle to export uranium to the subcontinental nuclear power, conditional on agreed safeguards.

Downer said Australia would "first of all" have to await the signing of a US-India pact to transfer civilian nuclear fuel and technology before Australian uranium went to India, The Australian reported on Thursday.

The US State Department on Wednesday warned that an Indian atomic test could sabotage the deal, as Pakistan continued to complain about uranium shipments to its nuclear rival.

In Canberra, the opposition Labour Party demanded the Coalition immediately review the pending decision to sell the uranium to India.

"The Indian Government won't rule out nuclear testing and Australia has multiple international treaty obligations that the Government should uphold," Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland said.

Australia is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whereas India is not. Its refusal to sign up to the agreement has intensified fears that uranium for Indian power plants could be diverted for military purposes.