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July 10, 09

NEWS / Obama Calls for Global Nuclear Summit in March 2010

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — President Obama, at the G8 Summit in Italy, added another element to his goal of a nuclear-free world by calling for a global nuclear summit in March 2010, White House aides said.

The purpose of the summit would be to achieve the highest levels of nuclear security, which the president believes is essential for enhanced international security and for the peaceful development and the global expansion of nuclear energy, presidential aide Mark Lippert said July 8 following a dinner by the Group of Eight (G8) leaders in L’Aquila, Italy.

Lippert said Obama sees this as another piece of the nonproliferation agenda he first put forward in his Prague speech in April, where he called for a nuclear-free world. The Obama agenda includes substantial reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which the president and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to July 6 at the Moscow Summit; U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In the Prague speech April 5, Obama proposed a sweeping strategy to thwart the international nuclear threat: reducing and eventually eliminating existing nuclear arsenals; strengthening the NPT and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to additional nations; and preventing terrorists and political extremists from obtaining nuclear weapons or materials.

In a series of related statements, G8 leaders endorsed that strategy on the first day of the summit July 8, the White House said in a statement.

“Perhaps the key reason for the summit is, as [Obama] said on numerous occasions, he believes nuclear terrorism is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security, and he feels the need to help lead an international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt the illicit trade in these materials,” Lippert said in a White House conference call from L’Aquila.

The Group of Eight (G8) countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — are meeting in the mountain town of L’Aquila, Italy, July 8–10. The leaders are holding a series of conferences alone and with leaders from other nations representing advanced emerging economies and less developed nations.

Lippert, who is chief of staff of the U.S. National Security Council that advises the president on an array of security and economic issues, said Obama is trying to set higher standards on nuclear nonproliferation and expand the peaceful use of nuclear energy worldwide. This announcement comes as the United States and its allies are trying to convince the regimes in North Korea and Iran to abandon efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

“The president is very committed to a proactive approach on these issues and doesn’t want to wait for an act of nuclear terrorism before working together to collectively improve our nuclear security culture,” Lippert said.

The G8 leaders issued a statement July 8 that emphasized a unanimous commitment to a comprehensive, peaceful and diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iran over its nuclear development program. “We urge Iran to use the present window of opportunity for engagement with the international community in a spirit of mutual respect and to respond positively to the offers advanced,” the statement said.

The G8 statement condemned the nuclear weapon test by North Korea on May 25, saying it undermines peace and stability in the region and beyond.

Denis McDonough, the president’s deputy national security adviser, said Obama has no illusions that this will be easy. “But I do think that we are continuing to see the impact of the investment of time and resources not only this week in Moscow, but certainly over the course of these last several months with the trips and the visits in Washington to discuss these issues, particular Iran and nuclear security,” he said.

The full texts of a G8 statement on nonproliferation and a G8 statement on addressing the nuclear threat are available on America.gov.



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