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'Madmen' must not get nuclear material, Obama warns.

Summary: U.S. President Barack Obama urged world leaders Friday to do more to safeguard nuclear facilities to prevent "madmen" from groups like Daesh (ISIS) from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon or a radioactive "dirty bomb."

WASHINGTON: U.S. President Barack Obama urged world leaders Friday to do more to safeguard nuclear facilities to prevent "madmen" from groups like Daesh (ISIS) from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon or a radioactive "dirty bomb."

Speaking at a nuclear security summit in Washington, he said there was a persistent and evolving threat of nuclear terrorism despite progress in reducing such risks. But he insisted: "We cannot be complacent."

Obama said no group had succeeded in obtaining bomb material but that Al-Qaeda had long sought them and cited actions by Daesh militants behind recent attacks in Paris and Brussels that raised similar concerns.

"There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many innocent people as possible. It would change our world."

Obama was hosting more than 50 world leaders for his fourth and final summit focused on efforts to lock down vulnerable atomic materials to prevent nuclear terrorism. North Korea's nuclear defiance was also high on the agenda.

A boycott by Russian President Vladimir Putin, unwilling to join in a U.S.-dominated gathering at a time of increased tensions between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine and Syria, adds to doubts that the meeting will yield any major decisions.

Deadly bomb attacks in Brussels last month have fueled concern that Daesh could eventually target nuclear plants, steal material and develop radioactive "dirty bombs." Militants were found to have secretly videotaped the daily routine of a senior manager of a Belgian nuclear plant, Obama said.Obama said the required 102 countries had now ratified an amendment to a nuclear security treaty that would tighten protections against nuclear theft and smuggling. But he acknowledged that with roughly 2,000 tons of nuclear material stored around the word, "not all of this is properly secured."

The U.S. and Japan also announced they had completed the long-promised task of removing all highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium fuels from a Japanese research project. Japan is an avowedly anti-nuclear-weapons state as the only country ever to have suffered a nuclear attack.

Despite strides by Obama in persuading dozens of countries to rid themselves of bomb-making materials or reduce and safeguard stockpiles, much of the world's plutonium and enriched uranium remains vulnerable to theft.

Earlier Friday, Obama convened a separate meeting of the world powers that negotiated a nuclear pact with Iran last July, a critical component of his nuclear disarmament agenda and a major piece of his foreign policy legacy. He said efforts to implement the deal, which required Tehran to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had shown "real progress" but it would take time for Iran to reintegrate into the global economy.

Also looming over the summit was continuing concern about nuclear-defiant North Korea. Obama joined South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Thursday in vowing to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang in response to its recent nuclear and missile tests.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Apr 2, 2016
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