World leaders backed a landmark resolution yesterday calling for a world without nuclear weapons at a United Nations Security Council hosted by Barack Obama.
President Obama hailed the agreement as a landmark in halting the spread of nuclear weapons and beginning multilateral disarmament.
"The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to a goal of a world without nuclear weapons," he said. "We now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches."
But forceful statements from other leaders on the need to act against Iran following the vote threatened to upstage the special meeting.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, came close to mocking his US counterpart for the good intentions, which Mr Obama had heralded as an "historic" step towards nuclear abolition, even though it set no targets or fresh mandates.
"We live in a real world not a virtual world," the Frenchman told the 15-member council. "And the real world expects us to take decisions.
"President Obama dreams of a world without weapons . . . but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite.
"Iran since 2005 has flouted five security council resolutions. North Korea has been defying council resolutions since 1993.
"I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community? "More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map," he continued, referring to Israel.
The sharp-tongued French leader even implied that Mr Obama's resolution 1887 had used up valuable diplomatic energy.
"If we have courage to impose sanctions together it will lend viability to our commitment to reduce our own weapons and to making a world without nuke weapons," he said.
Mr Sarkozy has previously called the US president's disarmament crusade "naive".
Gordon Brown also said it was time to "draw a line in the sand" with Tehran, intensifying the pressure on Iran's leaders to make concessions at a key meeting with major powers next week.
"Iran must not allow its actions to prevent the international community from moving forward to a more peaceful era," he said. "And as evidence of its breach of international agreements grows, we must now consider far tougher sanctions together."
Tehran responded quickly and with familiar intransigence, calling on the UN to drop "futile and illegal demands". It said the allegations made by Britain and France were "totally untrue and without any foundation", suggesting talks with Iran in Geneva next week may struggle to make progress.
Iran has defied several sets of UN sanctions and has given no indication it is willing to admit even tacitly that it intends to build a nuclear bomb, as the international community believes. It has only provided the slightest hints that it may be more co-operative with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Some sanctions have been poorly enforced while stronger measures have been resisted by China and Russia, who are both among permanent five members of the Security Council.
The Obama administration, however, believes direct action is more likely after Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said that "in some cases sanctions were inevitable".
The new resolution did not mention any countries by name. It called for enhanced efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote disarmament and "reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism". It sought better security for nuclear weapons materials.
Though it merely consolidated many elements previously endorsed in the Security Council or other international forums, bringing them together in a single document, it should add momentum to efforts to achieve these goals.
"We know there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point," said Mr Obama. "But there will also be days like today that push us forward -- days that tell a different story." (© Daily Telegraph, London)