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Oz and China sign uranium deal

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Energy-hungry China has signed a deal with Australia by which the lucky country will, from 2010, supply 20,000 metric tons of uranium per year for the Communist giant's nuclear power industry, the BBC reports.

The agreement was signed by OZ PM John Howard and Premier Wen Jiabao during a four-day visit to Australia by the Chinese politician. It was finally struck in accordance with Australia's policy of selling uranium only to signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty who also sign "a separate bilateral deal stipulating that they will not divert nuclear fuel into weapons programmes", following previous failures by the two nations to come to an accord.

Concerns that the uranium will allow China to divert its own sources of the material to nuclear weapons were unfounded, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Australian radio.

He further assured: "These agreements establish strict safeguards, arrangements and conditions to ensure Australian uranium supplied to China, and any collaborative programmes in applications of nuclear technology, is used exclusively for peaceful purposes."

The signing ceremony then evidently turned to a sort of Sino-Australian love-in, with Howard declaring: "Of all the important relationships that Australia has with other countries, none has been more greatly transformed over the last 10 years than our relationship with China."

Wen confirmed: "There are no issues left over from history and there are no cultural matters standing in the way of our bilateral relations."

China plans to build between 40 and 50 nuclear power stations in the next 20 years. Australia boasts 40 per cent of all the world's uranium deposits. ®

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