U.S. President Barak Obama chaired a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, urging strides toward a world without nuclear weapons. The council unanimously approved a resolution expressing grave concern about the nuclear proliferation threat and urging action to prevent it.
Mr. Obama's presence in the Security Council underscored his administration's renewed commitment to the U.N. system, and support for international nuclear treaties that the previous Bush administration had been skeptical about.
The first-ever council meeting chaired by a U.S. president began with unanimous approval of a resolution renewing the U.N. commitment to a world without nuclear weapons, and urging nations that have not already done so to embrace the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Obama warned the detonation of a single nuclear weapon in a major world city would cause global economic damage and insecurity, in addition to killing hundreds of thousands of people.
He said the next 12 months will be critical in determining if global efforts enshrined in the new resolution will succeed, and he said the world community must not succumb to cynicism about disarmament efforts.
"We harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons," said the president. "We know there are plenty of cynics and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days like today that push us forward, days that tell a different story. It is the story of a world that understands that no difference or division is worth destroying all that we have built, and all that we love."
Mr. Obama said the global effort would seek to "lock down" all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.
Neither Mr. Obama, nor the resolution, specifically mentioned individual countries believed to be seeking nuclear weapons.
But in their council statements, both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown criticized Iran and North Korea for defying international efforts to curb their nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Sarkozy said that in light of Iran's violation of five Security Council resolutions, "no one can seriously believe" Tehran's assertions that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Prime Minister Brown said the world community can no longer look the other way as North Korea and Iran continue dangerous nuclear activities.
"I believe the lesson of recent months is [that] we cannot stand by when Iran and North Korea reject the opportunities of peaceful civil nuclear power and instead take steps to develop nuclear weapons in a way that threatens regional peace and security," he said. "Today I believe we have to draw a line in the sand. Iran must not allow its actions to prevent the international community from moving forward to a more peaceful era."
Momentum for tougher international sanctions against Iran, if it refuses to resolve concerns about its nuclear intentions, appears to be growing in advance of a critical meeting between Iran's nuclear negotiator and big power diplomats October 1st in Geneva.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, whose government has resisted punitive action against Iran, told Mr. Obama on Wednesday that while sanctions are rarely productive, they are in some cases inevitable.
The United States also said Thursday that after a 10-year lapse it would rejoin a biennial conference designed to win support for the comprehensive test ban treaty. The administration of former president Bill Clinton supported the test ban treaty, but ratification was rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1999.