Australia will not sell uranium to Pakistan even if sales begin to its nuclear-armed rival, India, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Wednesday. <b1>
Downer declined to confirm media reports that the Cabinet’s National Security Committee has accepted his proposal to sell uranium to India despite its refusal to sign an international non-proliferation treaty.
“It does constitute a shift in policy if we finally announce this change,” Downer told
Australian Broadcasting Corp
But he said it would not signal that Pakistan and Israel — two other nuclear powers that have not signed the nonproliferation treaty — would also acquire nuclear fuel from Australia, which holds 40 per cent of the world’s known uranium reserves.
“We won’t be considering selling uranium to Pakistan because Pakistan has a long record of proliferation,” Downer said.
“Israel, I don’t think wants to import uranium from Australia under any circumstances,” he added, without elaborating. Downer said it was impossible to predict when Australia would be able to negotiate a safeguards agreement with New Delhi — which would include a condition that UN inspectors be allowed access to India’s civilian nuclear power plants. “That, if I may say so, enhances the nuclear nonproliferation regime, it doesn’t weaken it,” he added.
Opposition leader Kevin Rudd, who hopes to become PM after elections due around October, said selling uranium to a country that has not signed the nonproliferation treaty would send the wrong message to the world. “It is a very bad development indeed when we have the possibility of the government of Australia stepping outside the nonproliferation treaty, saying it’s OK to sell uranium to a country which isn’t a signatory,” he told reporters.