Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - Page 1 News List

US president warns over possibility of nuclear terrorism

AFP, WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama, left, speaks as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens at a plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Friday.

Photo: AFP

“Madmen” from the Islamic State group would not hesitate to launch a catastrophic nuclear attack, US President Barack Obama said at a global summit in Washington on Friday.

Hoping to galvanize action to prevent such groups from getting hold of nuclear weapons or material for a “dirty bomb,” Obama painted an apocalyptic picture of the effects of a nuclear attack.

Obama, whose second and final term ends in January next year, was hosting a fourth and likely final leaders’ summit aimed at reducing the risk of a nuclear holocaust.

The first summit was held in Washington six years ago at Obama’s behest, when the president, fresh from winning the Nobel Peace Prize, sketched out a vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

Today he stands as a president on his way out, trying to complete as much of his agenda as possible, while Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump garners attention with calls for South Korea and Japan to be nuclear armed.

Such utterances “tell us the person who made the statements doesn’t know much about foreign policy or nuclear policy or the Korean Peninsula or the world generally,” Obama said.

Obama nodded at his own failures too, saying poor relations with Russia — the world’s other major hoarder of nuclear weapons — had hobbled his hopes to reduce conventional nuclear stockpiles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin boycotted the summit.

“My preference would be to bring down further our nuclear arsenal,” Obama said, adding that he had approached Putin in the hopes of negotiating another arms reduction treaty.

Obama used the summit to push for technical measures to safeguard fissile materials and limit the civilian use of uranium and plutonium.

He also shifted the focus on to North Korea’s nuclear tests, the nuclear deal on Iran and above all the threat from the Islamic State group.

That threat has loomed large over the two-day summit, amid revelations that the Islamic State group carried out video surveillance on a top Belgian nuclear scientist.

“ISIL has already used chemical weapons, including mustard gas, in Syria and Iraq,” Obama said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they most certainly would use it to continue to kill as many innocent people as possible.”

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