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Obama denies asking Australia to sell uranium to India

Melbourne: Visiting US President Barak Obama has denied speculations that America influenced Australia to overturn its policy of not selling uranium to India.

“We have not had any influence, I suspect, on Australia’s decision to explore what its relationship in terms of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in India might be,” the US President said at a press conference on his arrival in the Australian capital of Canberra Wednesday.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced her plan to lift the ban on uranium exports to India in a newspaper article Tuesday. “I don’t think Julia or anybody else needs my advice in figuring that out,” said Obama.

Obama said Gillard’s decision to overturn the uranium export ban seemed to be compatible with international law. “I will watch with interest what’s determined.

“But this is not something between the US and Australia… this is something between India and Australia,” the US president said. Gillard said in an article published in The Age newspaper Tuesday that “it is time for (ruling) Labor to modernise our platform and enable us to strengthen our connection with dynamic, democratic India”.

Gillard, who met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G20 summit at Cannes, has been urging, along with a number of her senior party colleagues, the lifting of the ban on uranium exports to India as the South Asian country has shown remarkable nuclear compliance.

“We will not sell India uranium for peaceful purposes – though Canada is preparing to – while policy allows us to export it to countries such as China, Japan and the United States,” Gillard wrote.

She, however, added that “we must, of course, expect of India the same standards we do of all countries for uranium export”. Australia has not been exporting the crucial nuclear fuel to India as the latter has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Obama, who was given a rousing welcome in Canberra Wednesday afternoon, also endorsed the growing ties between the two Indian Ocean Rim countries Australia and India.

“India is a big player and the Australia-India relationship is one that should be cultivated,” he said. The Australian prime minister once again defended her plan to lift the uranium export ban on India, saying that her country cannot afford to miss out on the jobs and trade benefits expected from the deal.

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