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Ex-Australian Leader Denounces Uranium Trade With India

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on Thursday sharply criticized the December decision by the current government in Canberra to permit uranium export negotiations with India as a threat to efforts to end nuclear proliferation, the Australian Associated Press reported (see GSN, Dec. 6, 2011).

Nonproliferation advocates fear that allowing India to import Australian uranium for its civilian atomic sector would enable the South Asian state to shift domestic uranium resources toward its nuclear weapons program. 

Canberra and New Delhi are expected to open uranium export talks this year. The Australian government has said any deal with India would have to meet the same strict nonproliferation requirements as agreements reached previously with other nations.

Fraser said Canberra was wrong to allow uranium negotiations with a nation that possesses nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"There is no doubt that exports to India will make it easier for India to divert uranium for weapons programs," the former Liberal Party prime minister said.

Fraser also criticized the former Bush administration in the United States for taking stances he said encouraged nations such as North Korea and Iran to develop nuclear-weapon capabilities. Iran denies having a nuclear weapons program, while North Korea is open about its atomic arms activities (see related GSN stories, today; Australian Associated Press I/Herald Sun, Jan. 26). 

Fraser and more than 700 other well-known and influential Australian citizens are urging Canberra to take the lead in pressing for the elimination of nuclear weapons around the world, AAP reported.

The Australians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention is comprised of 713 Australians who have been awarded the prestigious Order of Australia.

"The increasing risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and use in our region and beyond mean there has never been a more important time for Australian initiative and leadership in global efforts to free the world from nuclear weapons," the group said in a statement.

The group, which includes several former prime ministers and foreign ministers, would like Canberra to back an effort by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to press for formal talks on a global treaty that would prohibit nuclear arms (Katina Curtis, Australian Associated Press II/Sydney Morning Herald, Jan. 25).

Elsewhere, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday hosted Indian Ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao for wide-ranging discussions that touched on "the importance of our civil nuclear cooperation and continued efforts to chart a way forward that will bring India the benefits of American nuclear technology," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a report by the Indo-Asian News Service.

Though Washington and New Delhi inked a bilateral civilian atomic trade agreement in 2008, it has yet to be implemented as U.S. companies are wary of doing business in the South Asian nation under existing nuclear law there (see GSN, Dec. 13, 2011).

The Indian and U.S. governments are "still trying to work through the legal and regulatory issues that we have in India," Nuland said (Indo-Asian News Service/Economic Times, Jan. 26).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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