Melbourne, Aug 16 (PTI) Defending Australian government's decision to lift the ban on uranium sales to India, Premier John Howard today spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after which he announced the two countries will negotiate a uranium trade pact.
"Australia has decided in principle to export uranium to India, subject to India agreeing to very stringent safeguards and conditions," Howard told reporters in Canberra shortly after he had a telephonic conversation with Singh.
"I spoke to the Indian prime minister a short while ago. He's welcomed the government's decision," he said noting that India had "a very good non-proliferation track record." Howard's announcement came even as Australian government's chief nuclear adviser Ziggy Switkowski said he expected a ban on nuclear testing by India to be part of any deal with Australia.
"Our officials will now enter into negotiations regarding the conditions," he said, adding " we want to be satisfied that the uranium will only be used for peaceful purposes." Australia holds 40 per cent of the world's known reserves of this nuclear fuel.
Howard's Cabinet agreed in principle earlier this week to sell the nuclear fuel to India despite its refusal to sign an international nonproliferation treaty.
Earlier, Howard told Parliament that India would have to agree to international inspections of its nuclear power plants and complete the details of its nuclear partnership pact with the US. He said safeguards to prevent the use of the nuclear fuel in weapons would be put in place.