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'Uranium sales to India could accelerate nuke arms race'

Former top UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has warned that Australian uranium sales to India could trigger tension in the region.

world Updated: Aug 27, 2007 08:43 IST

Former top UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has warned that Australian uranium sales to India could trigger tension in the region.

"It would make it easier for them (Indians) to make bomb-grade material and this may increase tension vis-a-vis Pakistan and China," Blix said.

In an interview to 'The Age' on Monday, the veteran Swedish diplomat cautioned that the world is witnessing a dangerous phase of rearmament.

While Blix acknowledged the need for India to secure energy supplies, he said stricter safeguards were needed to prevent proliferation globally.

He said Australian uranium sales could free up India to use its own uranium to create weapons-grade material and heighten tensions in the region.

Blix, who was here to address a UN function in Melbourne, led UN weapons inspections in Iraq in the lead-up to the 2003 war. After the invasion, he criticised the US and Britain for exaggerating the case for war around weapons of mass destruction.

Beyond Iraq, Blix said the world had entered a dangerous period of rearmament, from the Russians developing new missiles to Britain's decision to extend its nuclear weapons programme.

"Despite the ending of the Cold War, which is now 17 years behind us, we are moving in the wrong direction," he said.

Blix said Cold War thinking underpinned the US' new nuclear deal with India, which he says is aimed at containing China.

He said Australia had a "great reputation" in taking part in disarmament initiatives and had a "past to live up to" validity.