Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:27 am (KSA) 21:27 pm (GMT)

US opens nuclear summit, Iran condemns meet

The summit is the biggest US-hosted assembly of world leaders in six decades (File)
The summit is the biggest US-hosted assembly of world leaders in six decades (File)

U.S. President Barack Obama opened a 47-nation summit dedicated to locking down nuclear materials on Monday with a pledge from Ukraine that it would dispose of all its highly enriched uranium.

Obama began the unprecedented two-day gathering with a series of meetings with some of the world leaders gathered for the summit, one of the largest international groupings ever staged by the United States.

Ukraine, the scene of the world's worst nuclear accident, pledged to dispose of all its stocks of highly enriched uranium by 2012, Ukrainian and U.S. officials said.

The announcement came after Obama met for the first time with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who took office in February.

"President Yanukovych announced Ukraine's decision to get rid of all of its stocks of highly-enriched uranium by the time of the next Nuclear Security Summit," the two leaders said in a joint statement

"Ukraine intends to remove a substantial part of those stocks this year," it added.

 President Yanukovych announced Ukraine's decision to get rid of all of its stocks of highly-enriched uranium 
US President Obama and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

Meanwhile, Obama was set to hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao that should go some way toward determining whether China is prepared to join the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Germany in a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and it does not intend to build a weapon.

Hu's agreement to attend was perceived as a positive sign in Washington after U.S.-Chinese relations were strained by Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama, China's Internet censorship, and U.S. pressure over China's currency.

Diplomats believe China might be willing to join the latest Iran sanctions push but it was still unclear how far Beijing would go to penalize a country with which it has significant economic ties.

“Humiliating”

 World summits being organized these days are intended to humiliate human beings  
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iran dismissed the U.S. summit and said it would not be swayed by any decisions made there.

"World summits being organized these days are intended to humiliate human beings," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Tehran.

Obama began a series of one-on-one meetings by seeing Jordan's King Abdullah, who like many Arab leaders is worried about the potential for Iran developing a nuclear weapon and triggering a Middle East arms race.

The summit -- the biggest U.S.-hosted assembly of world leaders in six decades -- will be a test of Obama's ability to rally global action on his nuclear agenda.

In a sign of progress on the issues, the foreign ministry in Moscow said Russia and the United States would sign a deal on Tuesday on reducing stocks of weapons grade plutonium.

Speaking on the eve of the conference, Obama said he expected it to yield "enormous progress" toward the goal of locking down loose nuclear materials worldwide.

"We know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon, a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using," Obama told reporters, calling it the biggest threat to national security.

Not on guest list or agenda

 We know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon, a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using 
US President Barack Obama

Iran and North Korea are not on the guest list or the summit agenda. But their nuclear standoffs with the West were likely to weigh heavily in Obama's talks with Hu and other leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She will sit down with the U.S. president on Tuesday after the summit is over.

"I think time is pressing and a decision on potential sanctions will need to be made soon," Merkel, referring to Iran, said in Berlin before leaving for the United States.

The list of leaders in attendance ranged from heads of state of traditional nuclear powers like Russia and France to nuclear-armed foes like India and neighboring Pakistan.

Obama, who last week signed a landmark disarmament treaty with Russia and laid out a new U.S. nuclear strategy limiting how Washington could use atomic weapons, said he was confident the summit would make important progress.

"I feel very good at this stage in the degree of commitment and sense of urgency that I've seen from the world leaders so far on this issue," Obama said.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani assured Obama in talks on Sunday his government has "appropriate safeguard" for its nuclear arsenal. Experts say Pakistan's stockpile of weapons-grade material poses a high risk because of internal security threats from the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Missing will be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who withdrew fearing Muslim leaders would use the summit as a forum to demand Israel give up its assumed nuclear arsenal.

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