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Ruling Australian Party Votes to Allow Uranium Sales to India

Australia's ruling party on Sunday approved reversing a longstanding policy in order to permit uranium sales to nuclear-armed India, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Nov. 29).

The proposal by Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Julia Gillard to authorize uranium exports to New Delhi passed in a 206-185 vote. Labor, which leads Canberra's coalition government, had previously opposed uranium sales to India as the South Asian state possesses nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Gillard said it did not make sense to allow uranium exports to China or other states, but to prohibit them to India -- "the world's largest democracy" and a nation with rising influence.

"Let's just face facts here -- our refusal to sell uranium to India is not going to cause India to decide that it will no longer have nuclear weapons," Gillard said.

"We can honor the treaty, we can change our platform, we can --- under the most stringent of agreements -- sell uranium to India if we so choose and, delegates, I believe that we should make that choice," Gillard said at the Labor Party's annual meeting.

Defense Minister Stephen Smith supported the change in policy, noting that New Delhi had freely agreed to place its nonmilitary atomic installations under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and was a "rising power ... which is deserving of being accorded that status."

Some opposed the move on the grounds it could increase the chances of another atomic plant disaster akin to the crisis at the Fukushima site in Japan and undermine the international nonproliferation regime.

"Nine months after Fukushima we are being asked to sell more uranium for more nuclear reactors to a country that does not have nuclear safeguards," Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said.

"The Labor Party has put profits before the peace and security of the region," said Tim Wright of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Arms (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, Dec. 4).

Pakistan criticized the Labor decision as hypocritical as the party did not lift its longstanding opposition to nuclear exports to Islamabad, Australian Broadcasting reported.

"Now if after the ALP's decision, if the Australian government is going to change the policy, all we would like to have is an equitable and nondiscriminatory decision," Pakistani High Commissioner to Australia Abdul Malik Abdullah said.

"If Australia is going to lift the ban on a country which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is hoped it is also applied to Pakistan the same way," Abdullah said.

Like India, Pakistan possesses nuclear arms outside of the NPT accord.

Canberra did not offer a response to Abdullah's comments (Jeremy Thompson, Australian Broadcasting, Dec. 5).

Note to our Readers

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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