- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — With an American president presiding for the first time, the U.N. Security Council is opening a summit-level meeting aimed at boosting long-stalled efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

President Barack Obama gaveled the U.N.’s most powerful body to order with presidents and ministers from the 15 member nations. Among the invited guests were former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, media mogul Ted Turner, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and Queen Noor of Jordan — all campaigners against nuclear weapons.

Diplomats said the Security Council would unanimously approve a draft resolution during the meeting which calls for stepped up efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote disarmament and “reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism.”

Obama aides see adoption of the resolution as an endorsement of the president’s entire nuclear agenda, as laid out in his April speech in Prague. He declared his commitment to “a world without nuclear weapons.”

The president called in that speech for the slashing of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, adoption of the treaty banning all nuclear tests, an international fuel bank to better safeguard nuclear material, and negotiations on a new treaty that “verifiably” ends the production of fissile materials for atomic weapons.

He also strongly backed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, which requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers to move toward nuclear disarmament. States without nuclear weapons are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology for electricity generation.

All those measures are included in the draft resolution.

In its opening paragraph, the draft reaffirms the council’s commitment “to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Arms control advocates say those elements are interconnected. Some nations might eventually reject the limitations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, for example, if the U.S. and other nuclear powers don’t abide by that treaty’s requirement to move toward disarmament by reducing their arsenals, or if they reject the test ban.

Also Thursday, the U.S. rejoined a biannual conference designed to win support for the treaty banning all nuclear bomb tests.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to help kick off that U.N. session, uniting foreign ministers and other envoys from more than 100 nations that have ratified or at least signed the 1996 treaty. It represents the first U.S. participation since 1999.

Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based group designed to fight the global spread of nuclear materials, called the draft before the Security Council “an excellent resolution.”

“But far more important is the high-level visibility that will be taking place … with world leaders gathering to remind both themselves and the world that we are at a nuclear tipping point,” he said in an interview.

Nunn said Wednesday Obama’s message is that “we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.”

The draft resolution does not mention any country by name but it reaffirms previous Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran and North Korea for their nuclear activities. It does not call for any new sanctions.

The draft “expresses particular concern at the current major challenges to the nonproliferation regime that the Security Council has acted upon.”

It also calls on all countries that are not parties to join the treaty “to achieve its universality at an early date,” and in the interim to comply with its terms. The major countries that are not members of the NPT are India and Pakistan, which have conducted nuclear tests, and Israel which is believed to have a nuclear arsenal.

Noor, a founder of the Global Zero international initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons which includes current and former senior officials from nuclear powers, to sit in the Security Council chamber for the vote and speeches.

She said in an interview that the resolution “would be a historic step toward an international consensus, and it would pave the way for governments to start working to achieve this goal.”

“I believe that world leaders have come to recognize that the only way to eliminate the nuclear threat is to eliminate all nuclear weapons, and it is urgent to begin making this vision a reality,” said Noor, the widow of King Hussein.

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