Last month the Australian government said it was considering selling uranium to New Delhi after India finalised a landmark civilian nuclear deal with the United States, allowing it to buy US civilian nuclear technology while possessing nuclear weapons.

 

"It is a very bad development indeed"

Kevin Rudd,
Leader of Australian Labour Party

The agreement made India an exception to the norms of the non-proliferation treaty.

 

Since then John Howard, the Australian prime minister, has indicated that he is prepared also to change Australia's policy of selling uranium only to countries which have signed the NPT.

 

Asked about the deal, Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, declined to comment on discussions held on the issue at the cabinet's National Security Committee on Tuesday night.

 

'Down the track'

 

India, along with Pakistan and Israel,  has
refused to sign the NPT [EPA]
"If we're ever to sell uranium to India, it's a bit down the track," Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. after the meeting of senior ministers.

 

Kevin Rudd, leader of the opposition Labour Party, who will attempt to become prime minister in elections due later this year, criticised any possible deal.

 

"It is a very bad development indeed when we have the possibility of the government of Australia stepping outside the non-proliferation treaty, saying it's OK to sell uranium to a country which isn't a signatory," Rudd told reporters.

 

Three states - India, Pakistan, and Israel - have refused to sign the NPT.

 

These countries argue that the treaty creates a club of "nuclear haves" and a larger group of "nuclear have-nots" by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967.

 

The treaty does not explain on what ethical grounds such a distinction is valid.

 

Australia has the world's largest known reserves of uranium ore and has been under pressure to sell to India after it agreed last year to supply China with uranium ore.

 

Aside from Australia, other major reserves of uranium ore are found in Kazakhstan, South Africa, the USA, Canada, Brazil and Namibia.