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Australia won''t sell uranium to India, says Macfarlanenews
23 May 2007

Mumbai: Australia will not sell uranium to India until it signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane said.

''''The answer is no,'''' Macfarlane told The Age newspaper, adding, ''''the Australian uranium industry can prosper without India, that''s my answer. ''''We have a prohibition on the basis they have not signed the NPT.''''

Macfarlane said companies, which he declined to name, have already approached him to discuss commercial opportunities to enrich uranium in Australia. He warned that Australia could not go down the nuclear route unless there was clear bipartisan support and the public accepted nuclear energy.

The minister''s remarks were in contrast to prime minister John Howard''s recent statements that hinted at a shift in Australia''s policy on uranium exports to India.

''''We see India as a very responsible country. The relationship between Australia and India is growing. It''s a very important relationship. They will be considerations that we will bear in mind,'''' he said during a visit by India''s nuclear envoy Shyam Saran. The statement raised prospects that Australia may open uranium sales to India.

Speculation was rife that Australia may relax its policy of not selling fuel for the burgeoning Indian civil nuclear plants. The Indo-US agreement to transfer nuclear technology was seen as a probable indicator for Australia to allow uranium exports to India.

However, the statement by the Macfarlane on Tuesday seems to have pushed the process back to square one. The Age also pointed out the apparent contradiction with the Australian prime minister''s earlier statement.

'''' There has certainly been no discussion with me and I''m the guy who signs the export permits regarding the potential to supply India,'''' Mcfarlane reportedly said, emphasising that he was simply reiterating this government''s policy.

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Australia won''t sell uranium to India, says Macfarlane