Australia again rejects India's uranium request

The Australian government is however, reportedly thinking of changing its policy of not selling uranium to India.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2006 11:45 IST

Australia has once again rejected India's request for uranium to boost its nuclear power programme.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said that nothing has happened to alter the debate on the issue, according to reports.

"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," he said.

The Australian government is however reportedly thinking of changing its policy of not selling uranium to India.

Howard is reportedly in favour of changing the existing policy, but it is believed that Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is opposed to the idea.

"But 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," Howard said.

India first approached the Australian government in March to get uranium after it signed a historic civilian nuclear deal with the US.

Australia's current regulations prohibit selling of uranium to countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"Certainly our policy to date has been to prohibit sales to countries which are not signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Howard said.

"And that's why at the moment we couldn't, without changing policy, sell to India, but we can to China."

The present Australian position of not selling uranium to India has put the Howard government in an uncomfortable situation as it may spoil the good relations between the two countries. India is already seen as a rising economic powerhouse.

India has become an important trading partner of Australia. Recently India has overtaken Britain to become Australia's fourth largest export destination.

The US Senate is expected to pass the landmark nuclear cooperation deal with India shortly.

First Published: Sep 25, 2006 11:45 IST