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Obama Wants More Nuclear Cuts With Russia, Warns Iran, North Korea

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) greets his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at a bilateral meeting before attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
U.S. President Barack Obama (left) greets his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at a bilateral meeting before attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
By RFE/RL
U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to pursue further nuclear arms cuts with Russia, and warned Iran and North Korea that the international community will not tolerate nuclear proliferation.

Obama made his comments on March 26 in Seoul, South Korea, where leaders of more than 50 nations are attending a two-day nuclear security summit.

Obama said he was confident that the United States and Russia, which reached a landmark arms-control treaty in 2010, can further reduce their nuclear stockpiles.

He said he would push for further reductions of strategic nuclear warheads held by the two countries, as well as tactical weapons and warheads held in reserve when he meets Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin in May.

Obama added that although "missile defense will be on the agenda" in his talks with Putin, he believed that "this should be an area of cooperation not tension."

The summit in Seoul is aimed at increasing global cooperation to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

North Korea Risks Further Isolation

South Korean officials have said participants were expected to discuss the standoff over North Korea and Iran's nuclear programs on the sidelines of the conference.

Obama, in a speech ahead of the summit, urged North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program or face further isolation.

He warned the leadership of the communist-led nation, which has announced plans for a long-range rocket launch later this month, against "provocations."

Instead Obama urged Pyongyang to have what he described as "the courage to pursue peace and give a better life to the people of North Korea."

The White House said Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, meeting ahead of the summit in Seoul, agreed to coordinate closely in responding to any "potential provocation" from North Korea.

Time Running Out For Iran

Addressing the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, Obama warned that time was running short for a diplomatic solution.

Obama gave no details of what could occur if diplomacy fails, but the U.S. and its ally Israel have not ruled out possible military action.

"Under the NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty], Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear energy," Obama said. "In fact, time and again, the international community, including the United States, has offered to help Iran develop nuclear energy peacefully.  But time and again, Iran has refused, instead taking the path of denial, deceit and deception."

The Islamic republic rejects allegations of having a nuclear weapons program, saying its atomic work is for peaceful energy production.

Before the summit, Obama also met with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev and praised Kazakhstan and Ukraine, among other nations, for transferring their nuclear materials to more secure locations.

Officials said a final shipment of spent highly-enriched uranium was transferred over the weekend from Ukraine to Russia under a two-year program coordinated by Washington and Moscow.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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