Leaders meet on eve of nuclear summit
If al-Qaeda were to acquire nuclear weapons it "would have no compunction at using them," U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday on the eve of a summit to discuss ways to secure the world's nuclear stockpile.
"The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon," Obama said. "This is something that could change the security landscape in this country and around the world for years to come."
"If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications — economically, politically and from a security perspective — would be devastating," he said.
The Nuclear Security Summit of more than 40 leaders in Washington this week is aimed at securing "loose nuclear material," Obama said. He was holding one-on-one meetings Sunday with several of those leaders.
"We know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, and would have no compunction at using them," Obama said.
Obama singled out South Africa for giving up its nuclear program, and said it "has been a strong, effective leader in the international community on nonproliferation issues. South Africa has special standing in being a moral leader on this issue."
South African President Jacob Zuma was among the leaders Obama met with Sunday at Blair House, across from the White House. Others included Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"I feel very good at this stage in the degree of commitment and a sense of urgency that I have seen from the world leaders so far on this issue," Obama said. "We think we can make enormous progress on this, and this then becomes part and parcel of the broader focus that we've had over the last several weeks."
On Thursday, the U.S. and Russia signed a landmark treaty in Prague that requires both countries to reduce their nuclear arms arsenals.
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to cut their strategic nuclear warheads by one-third and the missiles, submarines and bombers that carry nuclear weapons by more than half, pending legislative approvals.