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Australian defence minister Stephen Smith backs Gillard on uranium sales news
21 November 2011

Melbourne: Australian prime minister Julia Gillard received an important endorsement for her plans to overturn longstanding Australian Labour Party opposition to the sale of uranium ore to non-NPT signatories. Australian defence minister, Stephen Smith, has backed his PM's initiative citing New Delhi's exemplary track record on nuclear non-proliferation.

Responding to foreign minister Kevin Rudd's hasty and ill-timed attack on Gillard for not taking her Cabinet into confidence before making the announcement on this policy shift, Smith said it was her prerogative to take the matter to the cabinet, or go it alone.

Rudd backtracked somewhat after criticising his prime minister barely minutes after US president Barack Obama left Australian airspace after concluding his state visit to Australia, saying Gillard's initiative had his support.

Arguing in favour of the sale of uranium to India, Smith said India's nuclear track record was exemplary and the country had zealously guarded its nuclear expertise.

"There's no evidence over the years that India has in any way proliferated so far as uranium or nuclear materials or nuclear expertise (is concerned)," he was quoted as saying.

Most importantly, he said, the prime minister and foreign minister were in agreement about reversing the sales ban to India.

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Australian defence minister Stephen Smith backs Gillard on uranium sales