http://www.smh.com.au/national/secret-uranium-talks-with-india-20110209-1amzy.html?from=smh_sb HE federal Labor government has secretly canvassed the possibility of uranium sales to India while publicly asserting that it cannot allow such exports as long as Delhi maintains a nuclear arsenal outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The Resources, Energy and Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, has told the US embassy in Canberra that ''a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel could be reached in three to five years''. Mr Ferguson also said that the former prime minister and serving Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, had been ''careful â€¦ to leave the door open'' for uranium sales to India. Advertisement: Story continues below Yesterday Mr Ferguson told Parliament that at a meeting last month with the Indian Minister for External Affairs, S. M. Krishna he had ''reaffirmed that the position of the Australian government is that we are not in a position to sell uranium to India''. Asked by the Coalition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, whether he had discussed with a foreign government the possibility of a deal to sell uranium to India within the next few years, Mr Ferguson did not respond directly and instead reaffirmed the government's support for the US civil nuclear co-operation agreement with India. However, a ''sensitive'' US embassy cable passed to WikiLeaks reveals that in November 2009, the US ambassador, Jeffrey Bleich, reported to Washington that Mr Ferguson had said an arrangement to sell uranium to India could be concluded within a few years. His remarks were made in a meeting with Mr Bleich and the US deputy chief of mission, Dan Clune, on November 27, 2009. The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism deputy secretary, Drew Clarke, also attended. In a subsequent cable to Washington, Mr Bleich reported that Mr Ferguson had expressed the view that the expansion in uranium mining in Australia reflected ''a shift in willingness to consider nuclear energy''. According to Mr Bleich, Mr Ferguson said he ''personally supported the US-India nuclear agreement'' negotiated by the former Bush administration. The minister went on to say that Mr Rudd ''had been careful in recent comments in Parliament to leave the door open for uranium exports to other countries, including India''. In answer to a question in Parliament the day before Mr Ferguson met Mr Bleich, November 26, 2009, Mr Rudd had reaffirmed government support for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty but went on to emphasise that, although it had not signed the treaty, ''the government of India's history on non-proliferation is very good''. ''Obviously we value our relationship with India,'' Mr Rudd said. ''We will continue to work with India in terms of their overall energy needs.'' Earlier in 2009 a senior BHP Billiton manager, Barry Hewlett, told the US consul-general in Melbourne that India was ''a potentially massive market'' for the company's Olympic Dam uranium mine. As opposition leader, Mr Rudd committed Labor to oppose the Howard government's decision to consider uranium sales to India. In December 2007 a US official told Labor ministers the US attached high importance to securing approval through the multilateral Nuclear Suppliers Group and that ''Australia should separate its future decision on uranium sales from the separate issue of the NSG decision''. The Rudd government subsequently supported the Nuclear Suppliers Group's endorsement of the US-India civil nuclear co-operation agreement while publicly maintaining its opposition to Australian sales of uranium to India. The issue has remained an irritant in Australia's relations with India, with the US embassy reporting to Washington in October 2009 that ''Australian contacts believe New Delhi remains deeply frustrated by the Rudd government's reversal of former PM Howard's decision to authorise sale of uranium to India''.