US not to press Australia for uranium sale to India

Canberra maintains it will not sell uranium to India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 13:32 IST

The United States will not push Australia to supply uranium to India after Washington signed a landmark civilian nuclear energy deal, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.

Under the US deal agreed earlier this month, India will receive US nuclear technology in return for separating its military and civil facilities and opening the civilian plants to international inspections.

India wants to buy uranium from Australia, which has more than 40 per cent of the world's known reserves of the mineral.

However, Canberra maintains it will not sell uranium to countries, such as India, that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"The issue of whether or not one decides to participate in the fuel supply is a quite separable issue and it is one for the Australians to determine but not one that is at issue with the United States by any means," Rice said.

Rice, who held talks with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, said everyone understood that a growing democracy like India needed more energy supplies and the nuclear energy deal would help the country.

But Downer said the US deal would not influence Australia to change its policy on the sale of uranium, which also requires countries to agree to a separate nuclear safeguards agreement with Canberra.

"We think that the United States deal that they have done with India is a good deal and it takes forward this whole process of openness and transparency at least about many aspects of India's nuclear programme," Downer told a news conference.

"Is it perfect? I don't know you can put together a perfect deal. A perfect deal would be for India to give up its weapons programme and sign up to the NPT, but no matter how idealist and passionate we might be ... it is not going to happen, ever."

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 13:05 IST