Russia warns Australia against scrapping uranium deal: report
SYDNEY (AFP) — Any decision by Australia to scrap a deal to sell uranium to Russia to protest its action in Georgia would be “politically biased” and economically harmful, Moscow’s envoy to Canberra has reportedly warned.
Fairfax newspapers on Tuesday quoted Ambassador Alexander Blokhin, as issuing the caution a day after Australia’s foreign minister said Canberra was reconsidering whether to ratify a 2007 pact to sell yellowcake to Moscow following its military foray into Georgia.
“We do not see any connection between the events in the Caucasus region and the uranium deal,” Blokhin told Fairfax through an interpreter.
“These are completely separate things. The agreement on uranium is actually an agreement about the use of atomic energy only for peaceful civilian aims.
“If this agreement is not ratified, in that case we could regard that as an obversely political biased decision, which could harm the economic interests of Australia as well,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.
Blokhin could not immediately be reached for comment by AFP on Tuesday.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was then president, and former Australian prime minister John Howard signed the deal a year ago allowing sales of uranium to Moscow for civilian nuclear power use.
The pact, which broadens the scope of uranium sales from a 1990 agreement that remains in force, stipulates that the material not be used to make nuclear weapons or be sold to any other country.
But Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Monday that Australia would take into account Russia’s push into Georgian territory last month as well as Canberra’s ties with Moscow when deciding whether or not to ratify the deal.
“When considering ratification, the government will take into account not just the merits of the agreement but recent and ongoing events in Georgia and the state of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation,” Smith said.
Smith also ordered his ministry to convey the news to Blokhin, whom Smith had summoned last week to urge Moscow to pull its troops in Georgia back to the positions they held before the conflict began on August 8.
He also criticised Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of the Georgian rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as unhelpful.