By Sam Youngman - 04/11/10 10:45 PM EDT
President Barack Obama said Sunday that he thinks world leaders "can
make enormous progress" on securing loose nuclear material to prevent
it from winding up in the hands of terrorists.
Obama held a series of meetings with world leaders on Sunday, as heads of state and officials from 47 countries descend on Washington to discuss and agree to ways to prevent nuclear terrorism.
"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," Obama said. "And we know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon -- a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using."
While many have questioned what kind of concrete deliverables Obama can look for from foreign leaders after the two-day summit, the president said "the central focus" of the meeting is to get the world "on the path in which we are locking down that nuclear material in a very specific time frame with a specific work plan."
"And one of the things that I'm very pleased about is that countries have embraced this goal and they’re coming to this summit, not just talking about general statements of support but rather very specific approaches to how we can solve this profound international problem," Obama said.
Much of the attention will be on Obama's bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday as the president continues to push China and Russia to get on board with the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.
But Obama said Sunday that he feels "very good at this stage in the degree of commitment and sense of urgency that I've seen from the world leaders so far on" the issue of nuclear security.
"We think we can make enormous progress on this," Obama said. "And this then becomes part and parcel of the broader focus that we've had over the last several weeks, with the signing of the START treaty between the United States and Russia, reducing our nuclear stockpiles; a nuclear posture review that has been released that sends a clear signal that those who abide by the non-proliferation treaties will have negative assurances, meaning that if they’re abiding by their obligations, then they will not be targeted for potential nuclear weapons. And this then becomes a central part of a process that is probably the most urgent one and one that we're most concerned with in the short term."