- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2010

A global summit of world leaders begins in Washington on Monday with the goal of preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But the meeting will not address a long-stalled treaty to control fissile material, the key ingredient for nuclear weapons.

Representatives from 47 countries plus U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders from the European Union converge on Washington for two days of talks with the goal of seeking broad agreement on securing nuclear material that is vulnerable to theft or black-market purchase.

The nuclear-security summit reflects the Obama administration’s efforts to focus world attention on the specter of a nuclear terrorist attack.

“The central focus of this nuclear summit is the fact that the single biggest threat to U.S. security — both short term, medium term and long term — would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” President Obama told reporters before meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma.

Obama, world leaders work to stop nuclear spread

The summit is also part of a new emphasis on nuclear security and nonproliferation. Last week in Prague, Mr. Obama signed a treaty with his Russian counterpart to further reduce the number of nuclear warheads for both nations from between 1,700 and 2,200 to 1,550. The U.S. is hoping to strengthen the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) next month in U.N. negotiations in New York.

Mr. Obama, in a speech last year in Prague, set an ambitious goal to secure all such material within four years. U.S. and Russian technical specialists have been working to secure loose nuclear material since the end of the Cold War.

The Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) is a proposed international agreement that would require adherents to forgo any future enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels.

Despite its focus on securing “vulnerable nuclear material,” the summit will not focus on limiting the production of fissile material.

Michael Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Friday that Mr. Obama continues to support starting negotiations for the FMCT, based on the agreement last May at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament.

“By ending production of fissile material for weapons, an FMCT will make an important contribution to our nuclear security and disarmament goals,” Mr. Hammer said. “We hope the treaty will be given new momentum at the NPT Review Conference next month and that negotiations can start when the [conference on disarmament] reconvenes in June.”

A senior administration official said that the FMCT “may come up in national statements, but it is not an issue that is on the agenda for the summit.”

This official added, “While we are not pressing specific states to sign, we would expect that at a minimum the acknowledged nuclear-weapon states [U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain] would join.”

The FMCT was first proposed in 1998 and gained support from the Clinton administration. Israel, an undeclared nuclear power, has long opposed the treaty on fears that it could bring international inspections to its covert nuclear facility in Dimona.

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