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China, Australia sign uranium deal

Australia and China signed deals clearing the way for Beijing to buy Australian uranium for use in its nuclear power stations.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 11:10 IST

Australia and China signed deals on Monday clearing the way for Beijing to buy Australian uranium - but only for use in its nuclear power stations.

At a ceremony in Canberra, the two countries' foreign ministers signed off on two agreements intended to ensure Beijing does not divert Australian nuclear fuel into its atomic weapons programme.

China has been negotiating for months to buy uranium from Australia, which has 40 per cent of the world's known uranium deposits.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing signed two pacts - a Nuclear Transfer Agreement and a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

"These agreements establish strict safeguards, arrangements and conditions to ensure Australian uranium supplied to China, and any collaborative programmes in applications of nuclear technology, is used exclusively for peaceful purposes," Downer said in a statement.

Australia refuses to sell uranium to nations that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The signing came on the third day of a visit to Australia by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Wen held talks early on Monday with Prime Minister John Howard in Canberra and Howard paid tribute to the two countries' relations.

The Australian Conservation Foundation, a leading environmental group, warned that the deal will jeopardise international nuclear safeguards by allowing China to divert uranium to its weapons programme.

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