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The US decides to oversee the removal of two nuclear weapons’ worth of nuclear material from the Vinca Institute in Serbia, part of a defunct Yugoslavian nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has cut funding for the government’s nuclear nonproliferation programs so drastically (see January 10, 2001 and After) that it is forced to rely on the efforts of a private foundation. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), founded by former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn and media tycoon Ted Turner, contributes $5 million to the effort—double the funding contributed by the State Department. US and Serbian authorities, in conjunction with NTI, transport 5,000 rods of highly enriched uranium from the site, most likely to be stored at Russia’s Ulyanovsk Nuclear Processing Plant. “Serbia might have decided to sell this material to Iraq,” says national security expert Joseph Cirincione. “It’s a good thing for all of us that that possibility has now been eliminated.” When the operation is successfully concluded, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, whose department oversees the securing of “loose” nuclear material from around the world, learns of it through newspaper reports. (Nuclear Threat Initiative 8/23/2002; Dao 8/23/2002; Scoblic 2008, pp. 208)
With President Obama serving as chairman, the United Nations Security Council collectively approves Resolution 1887 to decrease withdrawals from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The measure also decreases the opportunity for civilians to divert nuclear resources for the development of sophisticated weaponry. Although they are not specifically mentioned, it is believed that the resolution is to ensure compliance by countries such as North Korea and Iran, each of which has either banned inspectors or rigorously restricted their access. “The resolution is not about singling out nations,” Obama says. “We must demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced.” Officials of the Obama administration say that the resolution will not become binding unless and until the Security Council takes steps to subject nuclear exports to supplementary restrictions. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, say that current sanctions against Iran and North Korea are inadequate, and ask the council for “far tougher sanctions” against Iran. Sarkozy says, “What I believe is that if we have the courage to affirm and impose sanctions on those who violate resolutions of the Security Council, we will be lending credibility to our commitment to a world with fewer nuclear weapons and ultimately with no nuclear weapons.”
"A World without Nuclear Weapons" - During his opening speech, Obama describes his vision of “a world without nuclear weapons,” as reflected in the text of Resolution 1887. He says the resolution “revitalized” the Security Council’s commitment to a world without nuclear weapons, while reaffirming nuclear proliferation as a threat to global peace and security. “We harbor no illusions about the difficulty of attaining such a world,” Obama notes, “but there will also be days like today that push us forward—days that tell a different story.”
Rare Security Council Session - Today’s session is unusual in that it is only the fifth time the Security Council has held a summit-level meeting since the founding of the United Nations in 1945. Obama, as chairman, makes history as the first US president to head a UN Security Council session.
US and Russia Meet - The day before, Obama met with Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev for the first time since he announced that former President George W. Bush’s Eastern Europe missile defense program would be replaced by a system that Moscow sees as less menacing. Although Obama administration officials publicly deny that the missile defense replacement decision was a result of quid pro quo, for the first time, Medvedev indicates that his country would be agreeable to repeated American requests for drastically tougher Iran sanctions, should the October nuclear talks scheduled with Iran fail. “I told His Excellency Mr. President that we believe we need to help Iran to take a right decision,” Medvedev says. “Sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.”
Dignitaries in Attendance - Among the dignitaries attending the session are former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, media mogul Ted Turner, and Queen Noor of Jordan; all three are active in efforts toward nuclear disarmament. (Cooper and Otterman 9/24/2009)
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