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Australian Leader Backs India Uranium Sales

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has backed the lifting of Australia's ban on uranium sales to nuclear power India -- but says there are no plans to sell Australian uranium to nuclear-armed Pakistan or suspected nuclear power Israel.

Australia currently exports uranium to China, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, but India -- along with Israel and Pakistan -- have been excluded because they have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Gillard on November 15 described India as the world's biggest democracy, noted its economic strength, and said tightened links between Australia and India would produce more Australian jobs and economic growth.

She said, however, that India must provide assurances that Australian uranium will be used only for peaceful purposes.

Gillard described India as being “in a class of its own,” and said Australia has no plans to open such sales to Israel or Pakistan.

"When you look at other nations, whether it be Pakistan or Israel, they are not in that same class -- and I would note that with Israel, as far as I am advised, they are not seeking Australian uranium and they don't rely on a domestic civil nuclear industry for their power supplies," Gillard said.

Gillard's ruling center-left Labor Party is expected to debate lifting the ban on sales to India at a conference next month.

Australian ally the United States in 2008 signed an agreement with India allowing India to purchase U.S. nuclear fuel and technology for peaceful purposes.

Australia is one of the world's leading uranium producers, alongside Kazakhstan and Canada, and has the world's largest known reserves of uranium.

compiled from agency reports