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Obama Leads Security Council Session on Sidelines of UN General Assembly

President Barack Obama chaired a summit level-session of the Security Council Thursday that unanimously adopted a resolution committing to work toward a nuclear weapons-free world. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the second day of the U.N. General Assembly where the annual debate continued.

The Security Council session focused on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and the resolution urged action to prevent the spread of atomic weapons.

President Obama presided over the meeting, the first time a U.S. president has done so.  He told the council that the United Nations has a "pivotal role to play" in preventing a nuclear crisis.

"The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons," said President Obama. "And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal."

Among its goals, the resolution aims to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to keep nuclear materials out the hands of terrorists, and to ensure the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

All of the other council members were represented by their head of state or government, except for non-permanent member Libya, which sent its U.N. ambassador instead of President Moammar Gadhafi.

Meanwhile, the annual debate continued in the General Assembly.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government wants peace with the Palestinians, but that it requires holding back "the forces of terror led by Iran." He dismissed as "biased and unjust" a U.N. Human Rights Council report that accused Israel of war crimes during its December Gaza offensive, saying his country was acting in self-defense against militant rocket fire.  But he said the most urgent threat facing the world today is stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"This is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fundamentalism and the weapons of mass destruction," said Benjamin Netanyahu. "The most urgent challenge facing this body today is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are the members of the United Nations up to that challenge?"

In an apparent reference toward the trend in Latin America toward left-leaning governments, Venezuelen President Hugo Chavez said there is a revolution going on and that socialism is the path to salvation.

U.S.-Venezuelan relations have been tense in recent years, although both nations agreed this year to seek a relationship based on mutual interest. In Mr. Chavez's last speech here in 2006, he referred to President George W. Bush as the devil, saying he smelled sulfur in the room. But on Thursday, he expressed a more favorable view of President Obama, calling him "an intelligent man".

"I hope Obama will be able to look and see - genuinely see - what has to be seen and bring about a change," said Hugo Chavez. "It does not smell of sulfur in here anymore, it doesn't smell of sulfur. It is gone. No, it smells of something else, it smells of hope."

Later in a news conference, Mr. Chavez said he did not see any chance for restoring relations with neighboring Colombia.

Japan's new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who just took office last week, said his country hopes to be a "bridge" for the world as it faces challenges such as the global financial and economic crisis, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and eradicating poverty.

While Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country wanted strong cooperation with all its neighbors and to see a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue.

And African presidents from Rwanda, Ghana and Sierra Leone each pointed to the negative impact of the global financial and food crises, as well as the growing impact of climate change, on development in their countries.

The annual debate continues Friday, with more than 20 presidents expected to speak.

 

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