Earlier versions of this story, including in the print edition of Thursday's Washington Post, misstated the number of countries that have ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. A total of 150 countries have done so.
Security Council Adopts Nuclear Weapons Resolution
Thursday, September 24, 2009; 2:10 PM
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 24 -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S-drafted resolution Thursday morning that affirms many of the steps President Obama plans to pursue as part of his vision for an eventual "world without nuclear weapons."
In a first for a U.S. president, Obama presided over the 15-member meeting, joined by such leaders as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The meeting marked only the fifth head-of-state summit in U.N. history, and Obama's presence was intended to signal the importance of the issue for the administration.
Addressing the leaders, Obama said nuclear weapons pose a "fundamental threat" to the world. "Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city -- be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people and would badly destabilize our security, our economies and our very way of life," he said.
While the resolution passed on a 15-0, China and Russia balked at a French proposal to cite Iran and North Korea by name. In a diplomatic fudge, the text therefore refers only to Security Council resolutions concerning the countries. Obama mentioned the two countries by name in his speech, saying he was not trying to single out any country but that "international law is not an empty promise."
North Korea tested a second nuclear weapon this year, and Iran has resisted greater international oversight for its nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, but the United States and other major powers fear they are a cover for a weapons program.
Obama is pressing for a new worldwide treaty to halt production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium and strengthen the global Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has limited the spread of nuclear weapons for decades but now is in danger of fraying.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was more pointed than Obama in his criticism of Tehran, listing offers made by world powers to Iran in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and this year, with no real response from the Islamic Republic.
"There comes a time when stubborn facts will compel us to take a decision if we want a world without nuclear weapons," he said. "We live in a real world, not a virtual world," and the world must act if Iran does not respond at a crucial Oct. 1 meeting in Geneva.
"If we have the courage to affirm and impose sanctions together against those who violate resolutions of the Security Council, we will be lending credibility to our commitment towards a world with fewer nuclear weapons," Sarkozy said.
Brown also declared that "far tougher sanctions" must be imposed on Iran if it continues to enrich uranium in defiance of previous Security Council resolutions.
In closing remarks at the end of the two-hour meeting, Obama declared that ridding the world of nuclear weapons was a "difficult but achievable goal."
Although Libya currently has a seat on the Security Council, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi did not appear at the meeting, the only leader of a member country not to do so. He had been scheduled to speak as Libya's de facto head of state, but the Libyan statement was read by the country's U.N. ambassador instead. There was no immediate explanation for the switch.