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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Obama Outlines Goal Of Nuclear-Free World

PRAGUE -- U.S. President Barack Obama promised on Sunday to lead the world into a nuclear-free future, declaring that it "matters to all people everywhere," even as North Korea upstaged him with the launch of a long-range rocket that theoretically could carry a warhead.

Obama made his pledge before 20,000 flag-waving Czechs outside the gates of picturesque Prague Castle. He chose a nation that peacefully threw off communism and helped topple nuclear power Soviet Union as the backdrop for presenting an ambitious plan to stop the global spread of dangerous weapons.

"Let us honor our past by reaching for a better future," Obama said.

Shifting, on his eight-day European trip, from the economic crisis to the war in Afghanistan and now nuclear capabilities, Obama said his goal of "a world without nuclear weapons" won't be reached soon, "perhaps not in my lifetime."

But he said the United States, with one of the world's largest arsenals and the only nation to have used an atomic bomb, has a "moral responsibility" to take steps now.

Obama also gave his most unequivocal pledge yet to proceed with a missile defense system in Europe while Iran pursues nuclear weapons, as the West claims. The plan has contributed to a decline in U.S.-Russia relations. (Story, page 5.)

Obama said North Korea's launch served only to underscore the need for the actions he outlined. "Rules must be binding," he said. "Violations must be punished. Words must mean something."

He offered few details of how he would accomplish his larger goal.

To combat the risk from countries, and possibly terrorists, with nuclear weapons, Obama said he would:

•"Immediately and aggressively" seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which he may not get. Signed by President Bill Clinton, it was rejected by the Senate in 1999. Overall, 140 nations have ratified the ban. But they include only 35 of the 44 states that possess nuclear technology.

•Host a summit within the next year on nuclear weapons.

•Undertake a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within four years.

•Try to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by providing more resources and authority for international inspections and mandating "real and immediate consequences" for countries that violate the treaty.

•Seek a new international treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons.

•Build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation.

•Pursue by the end of the year a new treaty with Russia to reduce the two nations' nuclear arsenals.

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Saturday that talks on the new treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenals would start before the end of the month, Reuters reported.

Talks would be on the level of Foreign Ministry department heads, he said.