World nuclear summit confronts growing terrorist threat

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Barack Obama has optimistically opened the 47-nation nuclear summit, in which he would urge world leaders today to lock down nuclear material and arms to ensure extremists can never hold nations hostage with the threat of an atomic attack.

The US president said terrorists present the greatest nuclear threat to the world. States like Iran and North Korea, neither of whom were invited to the gathering, will be the top of the agenda.

However, it was not the Islamic Republic but terror organisations that present the biggest threat.

“If al Qaeda acquired nuclear weapons it would have no compunction at using them,’ the American President said.

”The single biggest threat to US security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organisation obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Mr Obama said.

“This is something that could change the security landscape in this country and around the world for years to come.

“If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications… would be devastating,” the president said.

France President Nicholas Sarkozy made clear to the world that France will not give up its nuclear weapons. He affirmed that giving up nuclear weapons would put the nation’s security on risk and he would never do this over the safety issue.

Sarkozy said that discarding nation’s nuclear weapons programme on a unilateral basis would be dangerous. He signaled that countries like the United States and Russia should take the lead in whittling down their own huge nuclear stockpiles, rather than expecting France, which has fewer atomic weapons, to disarm.

The ex-Soviet republic of Ukraine said Monday it would give up 90 kilos (180 pounds) of highly enriched uranium, equating to several bombs.

But the growing tension relies on Iran, which the United States and its allies accuse of covertly working on a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is pursuing only civilian power.

Obama tried Monday to persuade Chinese President Hu Jintao to join the growing drive to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to rein in its suspect enrichment program.

China has agreed to work with the US on possible new sanctions against Iran. After the Hu meeting, White House national security aide Jeff Bader said Iran was a major topic of discussion at the 90-minute session.

“They’re prepared to work with us,” Bader said, interpreting that willingness as “another sign of international unity on this issue”.

Iran has dismissed the Washington summit and defiantly said it is organizing its own nuclear conference to be held in Tehran on Saturday and Sunday with foreign ministers from 15 countries.

The conference was to be held following a “collective will of some independent and free-willed nations to genuinely confroont the use of nuclear weapons in today’s world,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, who controls the Islamic’s world’s only declared nuclear arsenal, also rebuffed calls to halt production of fissile material.

Gilani told reporters: “I assure you that Pakistan, as a responsible nuclear state and an emerging democracy, stands with the international community in its effort to make this world a better place to live in.”

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia were to sign an accord Tuesday on eliminating plutonium reserves, enough “for several thousand nuclear weapons,” according to the State Department.

The aim of the summit is to make sure that worldwide stocks of separated plutonium and enriched uranium are destroyed or accounted ofr and therefore unable to fall into the hands of militant groups.

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