China deals setback to US nuclear policy plan
US President Barack Obama's success yesterday in reaching a broad international agreement on securing the world's stocks of nuclear weapons material was dented after the Chinese failed to commit to a strong set of new sanctions on Iran.
The two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Washington brought 46 other nations and three major international agencies under one roof to sign a pledge to put highly enriched uranium under lock and key within four years to stop terrorists from creating a nuclear weapon. "Today is an opportunity, not simply to talk, but to act -- not simply to make pledges, but to make real progress on the security of our people," said Mr Obama.
David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, praised the president's vision and leadership in establishing a "gold standard of what nuclear security means".
Ukraine and Chile have agreed to hand over uranium that could be enriched to weapons level, while Russia announced plans to spend $2.5bn to dispose of 34 tons of plutonium, as part of an agreement signed with the US.
But the difficulty of making the world safer from nuclear attack was underlined by China's unwillingness to embrace tough sanctions against Iran, which the international community believes is working towards a nuclear weapon. Following a meeting between Mr Obama and Hu Jintao, China's president, a spokesman for the Chinese delegation said he hoped the United Nations would "actively seek effective ways to resolve the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations".
The Americans said that the Chinese "made it clear they are prepared to work with us". Washington hopes to have a new set of sanctions on Tehran agreed within weeks, but needs the co-operation of China which has a veto on the UN Security Council.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, appeared to have a heated exchange during the summit meetings on Tuesday. Mr Sarkozy has said France will not give up its nuclear weapons because doing so would "jeopardise" its security. Mr Medvedev last week signed an agreement with the US President Barack Obama agreeing to reduce his nuclear warheads by a third. (© Daily Telegraph, London)