The Australian government told US officials that an agreement to sell uranium to India could be concluded within years, despite public comments to the contrary, WikiLeaks cables reveal.
The cables published in Fairfax newspapers on Thursday said Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson told the US Embassy in Canberra in 2009 that “a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel could be reached in three to five years”, AAP reports
The remarks were said to have occurred during a meeting between Mr Ferguson and US Deputy Chief of Mission Dan Clune on November 27, 2009.
In public comments as recent as last month, Mr Ferguson said the government’s policy was to only allow Australia to supply uranium to countries that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that have signed a bilateral agreement with Australia. Critics have argued that not only does India have nuclear weapons, it has a tumultuous relationship with neighbour and fellow-nuclear power Pakistan.
But according to leaked cables Mr Ferguson said former prime minister Kevin Rudd had been careful to leave the door open on the sale of uranium to India.
In opposition Mr Rudd committed a Labor government to opposing a decision by the previous John Howard-led administration, which was to allow the sale of uranium to India provided certain safeguards were agreed to.
India has been lobbying the Australian government to overturn the ban on uranium sales.
Australia controls the world’s largest known resources of uranium, and is the third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.