Russia worried AUKUS pact will allow Australia to enter elite nuclear submarine club

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attends the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference in Moscow, Russia November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday it was concerned that the AUKUS defence agreement between Australia, Britain and the United States would allow Australia to enter the select group of nations that operate nuclear-powered submarines.

The three-way pact, under which Australia will obtain nuclear submarine technology from the United States, has angered France and concerned China since it was announced by Washington, London and Canberra last month.

Moscow said earlier this week it was seeking more information about the pact and on Friday Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he saw it as a challenge to global nuclear non-proliferation.

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"We are also concerned about the ... partnership that will allow Australia, after 18 months of consultations and several years of attempts, to obtain nuclear-powered submarines in sufficient numbers to become one of the top five countries for this type of armaments," Ryabkov said, the TASS news agency reported.

"This is a great challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime," he was quoted as saying.

Ryabkov was speaking in Geneva.

The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China all operate nuclear-propelled submarines.

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Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn

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