The Obama administration has provided details of the agenda of the Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington next week, focusing on commitments the 47 participating nations will make to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists. President Obama will also hold a series of bilateral meetings with individual heads of state and government.
Administration officials provided a broad outline of the summit to reporters in a telephone news conference before President Obama arrived back at the White House from Prague, where he signed a new strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, said the summit will be an unprecedented gathering of nations dedicated to nuclear security and the threat of nuclear terrorism. "It is absolutely fundamental to view this summit with the starting point of the grave nature of the threat of nuclear terrorism," he said.
The summit will get underway Monday after President Obama completes a series of bilateral meetings begun the previous day with heads of state and government from nine countries.
There will be an official welcoming ceremony at the Washington Convention Center with the president individually greeting each of the 46 other country delegations participating, among which will be Russia represented by its President Dmitri Medvedev.
Also there will be U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon, Yukiya Amano head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, expanding the total number of delegations to 50.
Delegations will then have a working dinner chaired by President Obama. Gary Samore, Senior Advisor to the President and Senior Director for Non-proliferation says that gathering will focus on the magnitude of the threat from loose nuclear materials and set the stage for the next day's discussions.
"This summit and the meetings that have led up to it have really helped to consolidate a view that President Obama advocates that the threat of nuclear terrorism is a very serious threat. There are groups out there that would clearly like to acquire the raw materials for nuclear weapons and if they were to acquire those materials there is a very high risk that they would use them, and there is a large quantity of nuclear material in the world some of which needs to be protected and secured at much higher levels," he said.
On Tuesday, President Obama will chair two plenary sessions, the first on how governments will respond to threats, including actions they commit to take to secure nuclear materials.
After a lunch focusing on the role of the IAEA, another session will examine international measures for nuclear security. Foreign ministers and nuclear officials will also attend events hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
White House officials say a final communique will recognize that nuclear terrorism is a serious threat, endorse President Obama's effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials over a four year period, and pledge in a general way what countries can do on national and international level.
Confirmed as of Friday are bilateral meetings President Obama will hold with nine heads of state or government.
These include the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, the president of South Africa, and the president of Kazakhstan, and the following day,China's President Hu Jintao, King Abdullah of Jordan, and the Malaysian prime minister and Armenian president. Nigeria's Acting President Goodluck Jonathan will pay what the White House calls a courtesy visit on President Obama.
Though Israel will attend the Nuclear Security Summit, it will not be represented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but by its Deputy Prime Minister.
The Israeli prime minister changed his plans after becoming aware of what Israeli officials described as plans by some nations, including Egypt and Turkey, to use the conference to target Israel over its nuclear weapons arsenal, which it has never confirmed possessing.
Obama administration officials downplayed the reversal, saying Israel will still have a robust delegation at the summit. But President Obama's national security adviser General James Jones acknowledged the apparent reason behind the decision. "I think that the Israelis did not want to be a catalyst for changing the theme of the summit, but they will be at the table," he said.
Of 47 countries attending next week's summit, Obama administration officials say 38 will be represented at the head of state or head of government level, the other nine at the vice president, deputy prime minister, or foreign or defense minister level.