Condoleezza Rice meets PM

The pair first met at a dinner last night hosted by Mr Howard at Kirribilli House.

Mr Howard has hinted that Australia could sell uranium to India following New Delhi’s nuclear deal with the US.

Australia, which has the world’s largest known uranium deposits, previously said it would not change its policy banning the sale of the nuclear fuel to states like India which have not signed the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But Mr Howard told a joint news conference with Ms Rice: “There isn’t going to be any immediate change in government policy. Obviously, like all policies, you never say never.”

The deal between US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month gives India access to long-denied civilian nuclear technology in return for placing a majority of its nuclear reactors under international inspection.

Howard said he had told Ms Rice that Australia has a policy of selling uranium only to signatories to the NPT.

“However, we would send in the next little while a team of officials to India to get some more information regarding that agreement and that group would go on to the United States,” he said.

Mr Howard noted that India had a good record in terms of non-proliferation since it exploded its first nuclear device some 30 years ago.

“But obviously we have a policy and we’re not going to automatically change it because of the agreement between the United States and India and despite the fact that India has expressed, as you all know, a great interest in purchasing Australian uranium.”

Three nation security talks

China’s growing international role and the war in Iraq will be the focus of unprecedented security talks between the US, Australia and Japan, according to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Ms Rice, who has called on China to explain the reasons for its military build-up, played down suggestions that the main topic of the trilateral talks to be held on Saturday would be the containment of Beijing’s growing power.

“While is it important for us to discuss the Pacific, and of course discuss the dynamic changes in this region including China, I think it would be wrong to leave the impression that that is the only thing on the agenda,” she told a press conference in Sydney.

“We and Australia and Japan have a lot of other issues in common as well; for instance, we have been active together in Iraq.

“So it is a natural course to discuss the situation in Iraq and I am sure that that will be a source of conversation tomorrow.”

Ms Rice will be joined in the talks on Saturday by Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and their Japanese counterpart Taro Aso.

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