Australia's Minister for Defence Peter Dutton signs the agreement in Canberra. AFP
Australia formally embarked on Monday on a hotly-contested programme to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines in a new defence alliance with Britain and the United States.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton joined US and British diplomats in signing an agreement allowing the exchange of sensitive "naval nuclear propulsion information" between their nations.
It is the first agreement on the technology to be publicly signed since the three countries announced in September the formation of a defence alliance, AUKUS, to confront strategic tensions in the Pacific where China-US rivalry is growing.
The deal will help Australia to complete an 18-month study into the submarine procurement, Dutton said after signing it in Canberra with US Charge d'Affaires Michael Goldman and British High Commissioner (ambassador) Victoria Treadell.
Details of the procurement have yet to be decided, including whether Australia will opt for a vessel based on US or British nuclear-powered attack submarines.
Peter Dutton (centre) with Michael Goldman (right) and Victoria Treadell discuss the agreement in Canberra. AFP
"With access to the information this agreement delivers, coupled with the decades of naval nuclear-powered experience our UK and US partners have, Australia will also be positioned to be responsible and reliable stewards of this technology," Dutton said in a statement.
Ahead of the signing, US President Joe Biden said in a memorandum approving the deal on Friday that it would improve the three countries' "mutual defence posture".
Under the AUKUS deal, Australia would obtain eight state-of-the-art, nuclear-powered but conventionally armed submarines capable of stealthy, long-range missions. It also provides for sharing cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum and unspecified undersea capabilities, according to AFP.
The agreement has angered China, which describes it as an "extremely irresponsible" threat to stability in the region.
It has also infuriated France, which discovered at the last moment that its own diesel-electric submarine contract with Australia -- recently estimated to be worth Aus$90 billion ($65 billion) -- had been scrapped.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been unapologetic about his handling of the agreement, insisting it was in his country's national interest and that he knew it would "ruffle some feathers".
Under the partnership, announced by President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
The country said Biden is acting like his predecessor Donald Trump after Paris was pushed aside from a lucrative defence deal that it had signed with Australia for submarines.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed on Tuesday a proposal for a new “Trump deal” aimed at resolving a nuclear row, saying it was a “strange” offer and criticising US President Donald Trump for always breaking promises.
Iranian state TV reported that rescue teams were dispatched to the quake-hit area and added there were no casualties.
The blast was so powerful that it toppled the truck carrying police officers into a ravine, police chief Meher said, adding that the bombing also damaged a nearby car carrying members of a family. He said that the anti-polio campaign will continue even after the bombing.
Sheikh Sultan called on farmers to cooperate with Sharjah government in developing and maintaining their farms and establishing specialised farms, stressing that he will provide the necessary support for electricity and water services at reduced prices.
The COVID-19 Drive-Through Services Centres in Abu Dhabi which will remain open are Rabdan, Manhal; Al Ain: Al Sarouj, Asharej. In addition, the COVID-19 Prime Assessment Centres in Mushrif Wedding Hall in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Convention Centre will remain open.