In one of his many firsts on the international stage, President Obama chaired a meeting of the U.N. Security Council today where a resolution reaffirming the U.N.'s goal of a world without nuclear weapons passed unanimously.
Obama, who delivered an unusually blunt speech to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, became the first ever U.S. president to chair this meeting.
"We now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches," the president said. "The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal."
The resolution calls for further progress on nuclear arms reductions through a strengthened Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, a U.N. treaty first opened for signature in 1968, and since amended, under which nuclear power nations agree to refrain from transferring nuclear weapons or related technology to any non-nuclear weapon state and to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." A total of 187 nations have signed the treaty, though Israel, India, and Pakistan are not among them, and North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003.
Today's resolution calls for improved security for nuclear weapons materials, and calls for the convening of a Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 and proposes ways to deter any nation from withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. It does not mention Iran or North Korea by name, but White House officials say it reaffirms previous resolutions against them.
The president was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Former American diplomats Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn and Bill Perry, who were present at the session, called it an important step.
"The Summit in the UN Security Council brings much-needed global focus to the risks posed by the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear material. By convening heads of state, the meeting can help build the necessary political will around the urgent steps required to reduce nuclear dangers," they said in a statement.
Obama seemed to have a celebrity status at the meeting. There are more delegates snapping photos of the president as he worked his way around the room than press photographers.
After rebuking Iran and North Korea Wednesday for pursuing nuclear arms, Obama again pushed world powers to commit to reducing their nuclear stockpiles and urged developing nations not to pursue nuclear weapons.
This renewed push comes after Obama convinced Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to say sanctions against Iran may be inevitable.
"Our task is to create such a system of incentives that would allow Iran to resolve its fissile nuclear program but at the same time prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons" the Russian president said after meeting with Obama Wednesday. "As to sanctions, Russia's belief is very simple, and I stated it recently. Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But in some cases sanctions are inevitable."