WASHINGTON — In full accord on a global threat, world leaders endorsed President Barack Obama's call for securing all nuclear materials from terrorists within four years at a 47-nation summit on Tuesday. They offered few specifics for achieving that goal, but Obama declared "the American people will be safer and the world will be more secure" as a result.
Obama had called the summit to focus world attention on keeping dangerous materials out of terrorist hands, a peril he termed the greatest threat facing all nations and a "cruel irony of history" after mankind had survived the Cold War and decades of fear stoked by a U.S.-Soviet arms race.
A terrorist group in possession of a mass of plutonium no bigger than an apple could detonate a device capable of inflicting hundreds of thousands of casualties, he said.
"Terrorist networks such as al-Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it," he told the opening session at the Washington Convention Center. "Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to global peace and stability."
The summit countries said they would cooperate more deeply with the United Nations and its watchdog arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency. They also said they would share information on nuclear detection and ways to prevent nuclear trafficking.
While the summit focused on the threat from terrorists, attention was given to Iran, North Korea and other nations who are seeking or have succeeded in obtaining or developing nuclear weapons.
In a news conference at the conference conclusion, Obama said he was confident China would join other nations in pressing for tough new sanctions on Iran for continuing to defy the international community in seeking such weapons.
"Words have to mean something. There have to be some consequences," Obama said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Obama Monday, then on Tuesday gave a speech to the group calling for "effective" measures to safeguard nuclear weapons and materials. But he stopped short of mentioning Iran's program. Iran, which was not invited to the conference, denies it intends to build an atomic bomb.