‘Sale of uranium to India will violate treaty’

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 09:43

Melbourne: Unless India agrees to open its
military facilities to nuclear inspectors, sale of uranium by
Australia to that country will be a breach of Federal
government`s obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Free
Zone Treaty, a noted legal expert said on Tuesday.

"Australia would be in breach of the so-called Rarotonga
Treaty, if India does not change its stand," Donald Rothwell
of Australian National University said in a written legal
opinion.

The Rarotonga Treaty bans uranium sales to most countries
unless they agree to "full-scope safeguards" defined by the
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The uranium sale policy is said to be the hot topic of
discussions at this week`s national conference of Australian
Labor Party in Sydney. The Labor Party will debate on lifting
its long standing ban on uranium sale to India.

"If India does not agree to Article 3.1 Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) safeguards and Australia were to export uranium
to India, Australia would be in violation of its Treaty of
Rarotonga obligations," Rothwell was quoted as saying by
`Herald Sun`.

This could lead to a challenge from other countries that
are part of the treaty, he added.

Australia is not saying India shouldn`t be subject to
safeguards. The real question is the extent and scope of the
safeguards. India would need to sign up to full-scope
safeguards that would require it to open military facilities.

He said India ratifying IAEA standards was "one step".

All countries - apart from the five nuclear powers
recognised in 1967 as weapons states (China, France, Russia,
Britain and the US) - are required to "not only have open
inspections of civil facilities but any military facilities
that use nuclear material.

"The five nuclear weapons states aren`t required and that
is the crux of why India thinks the NPT is discriminatory,"
Rothwell said.

Australia`s nuclear agreements with Russia and China do
not require the same level of safeguards as these countries
were recognised as "nuclear weapon states" by the NPT.

Rothwell said answers by the then foreign minister
Alexander Downer on the question of export of uranium to
Taiwan in 1996 indicated that the federal government had
received legal advice on its Rarotonga Treaty obligations when
exporting to countries classified as "non-nuclear weapons
states" by the NPT.

Downer, at the time had told Parliament: "The South
Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty imposes a legal obligation
not to provide nuclear material unless subject to the
safeguards required by Article 3.1 of the NPT; that is
full-scope safeguards."

Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s
office said it didn`t comment on the legal advice it received.

"The Prime Minister, as leader of the Labor Party, is
seeking to change the party platform to allow the sale of
uranium from Australia to India. Any decision by the
Australian government on the transfer of uranium to India will
comply with our international treaty obligations," said a
spokesman for Gillard.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has earlier announced her
plans to push her party to agree to change its stand to allow
sales of uranium to India, which she has said would create
jobs in Australia and would still have safeguards attached.

A vote will be put to members at the party`s national
conference this weekend.

Tim Wright, the Australian director of ICAN, said the
Prime Minister had failed to consult her lawyers.

"Not only is the sale of uranium to India illegal, it is
also highly dangerous given that India is rapidly bolstering
its nuclear forces," Wright said.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 09:43

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