Al Qaeda trying to acquire nukes: Obama

By Manish Chand and Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Warning of catastrophic consequences of nuclear terrorism, US President Barack Obama Tuesday said Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups trying to acquire nuclear material must be stopped.

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Networks such as Al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, he told world leaders from 47 nations, including Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at the Nuclear Security Summit.

Predicting that if they were to succeed, “they would surely use it,” Obama said: “Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow at global peace and stability.”

“It is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security, to our collective security.”

“Two decades after the end of the Cold War, we face a cruel irony of history: The risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up,” Obama told what he called an unprecedented gathering to address an unprecedented threat.

The conference was preceded by two days of bilateral meetings between Obama and other leaders, including Manmohan Singh, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

“Last night, in closed session, I believe we made further progress pursuing a shared understanding of the grave threat to our people,” Obama said. “And today, we have the opportunity to take the next steps.”

“Nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations,” Obama said. “Just the smallest amount of plutonium – about the size of an apple – could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

World leaders must do more than talk, he said – they must act to promote security. “It requires a new mindset,” Obama said, “that we summon the will, as nations, as partners, to do what this moment in history demands.”

Obama announced South Korea will host another summit of this kind two years from now. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak invited this year’s participants to return.

“I will do (my) best to make this summit a success. So I hope to see all of you in Korea,” Lee said.

The summit is expected to end with a joint declaration to guide work in preventing terror groups and criminal gangs from getting access to nuclear material. Obama says that is a first step toward his long-term goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.