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© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

Sydney, Aug 1 (IANS) Australia will Friday support the safeguards agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and India, but has reaffirmed that it will not sell uranium to India or any other country that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"After careful consideration, the Australian government has formed the view that the safeguards agreement is a positive step which will strengthen nuclear non-proliferation efforts and is consistent with the non-proliferation objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty", Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement here.

"The Australian government's position remains very firmly that it will not supply uranium to countries that are not a party to the NPT. Australia strongly supports international efforts to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and remains committed to universal adherence to the NPT. We will continue to encourage those States not party to the NPT, including India, to join the Treaty," said Smith.

Australia is one of the 35 members of the IAEA board that is meeting in Vienna Friday to consider the its director general's recommendation that the safeguards agreement between the IAEA and India be concluded.

The agreement will significantly expand the application of international safeguards to India's nuclear facilities. Under the agreement, India will undertake that civilian nuclear facilities covered by the agreement will not be used for military purposes. IAEA will verify that undertaking and India's adherence to nuclear safeguards.

Australia is also a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which later this month will consider its approach to the civil nuclear cooperation initiative between the United States and India.

Smith said: "Australia will approach the discussions in the NSG in the same positive and constructive manner that it approached the IAEA deliberations. We will bear in mind non-proliferation considerations, as well as the strategic importance of this issue for both India and the United States."

Meanwhile, the opposition Liberal Party has called on the Kevin-Rudd led Labour government to reverse its ban on uranium exports to India.

"The decision by the Rudd government to support the IAEA's approval of the agreement between India and the US effectively condones the sale of uranium to India by other countries around the world," opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Andrew Robb said in a statement.

"It is hypocritical in the extreme for Australia to refuse to sell our uranium to India, yet plausibly support the rest of the world supplying uranium.

"The government has no choice but to reverse their earlier opposition to these sales if they were serious about climate change and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions," Robb said.

"As well, it makes no sense for Australia to sell uranium to China and Russia, but not India. The US-India nuclear agreement is good for India, good for Australia, good for the region, good for climate change and good for nuclear non-proliferation," he added.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.

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