Obama proded Gillard to lift uranium ban

Melbourne: The United States seems to have influenced Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s U-turn on uranium exports to India, as the Obama administration viewed the long-standing ban was a roadblock to greater engagement between Washington and New Delhi. "Gillard`s decision to open the door for uranium exports to India came after talks with the Obama administration, which viewed the ban as a roadblock to greater engagement between Washington and New Delhi," The Australian newspaper claimed.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday signalled she would use the Labour party`s national conference next month to reverse a ban on exporting uranium to India, a non-signatory of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. "There`s nothing to be read into it, coming as it does the day before President Barack Obama`s visit, other than it suited me as the day to make the announcement," she said, adding "So it`s my decision, my announcement and it was made because of my logistics as today is the appropriate day."

The paper said it was understood that Australian and US officials have been involved in intense strategic discussions about India and the Indian Ocean for several months. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has been in India this week for a meeting on Indian Ocean co-operation and Defence Minister Stephen Smith is expected to visit India early next month to boost bilateral defence co-operation.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a closer partnership with India and considers Australia an integral part of its strategy, the paper said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said early this month that the US-Australian alliance had been transformed from "an Asia-Pacific alliance to an Indo-Pacific alliance".