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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Vote for Nuclear-Free World

UNITED NATIONS — With President Barack Obama presiding over a historic session, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a U.S.-sponsored resolution Thursday committing all nations to work for a nuclear weapons-free world.

Russia, China and developing nations supported the measure, giving it global clout and strong political backing.

The resolution calls for stepped-up efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote disarmament and “reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism.” It calls for better security for nuclear weapons materials and underscores the Security Council’s intention to take action if such material or nuclear weapons get into the hands of terrorists.

The resolution consolidated many elements previously endorsed individually in the Security Council or other international forums. But bringing them together in a single document, voted on by global leaders, should add political momentum to efforts to achieve these goals, particularly at important conferences next year on nuclear security and on strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty.

It was only the fifth time the Security Council met at summit level since the UN was founded in 1945 and 14 of the 15 chairs around the council’s horseshoe-shaped table were filled by presidents and prime ministers.

The United States holds the rotating council presidency this month, and Obama was the first American president to preside over a Security Council summit, gaveling the meeting into session and announcing that “the draft resolution has been adopted unanimously.”

“The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to a goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama said immediately after the vote. “And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal.”

Just one nuclear weapon set off in a major city — “be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris” — could kill hundreds of thousands of people and cause major destruction, Obama said.

The council endorsed a global effort to “lock down all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years,” and the president announced that the United States would host an April summit to advance compliance and  assist all nations in achieving the goal.

The resolution does not mention any country by name, but it reaffirms previous Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran and North Korea for their nuclear activities. It does not call for any new sanctions.

But global differences remain.

President Dmitry Medvedev said that “our main shared goal is to untie the problem knots” among nations seeking nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

“This is complicated since the level of mistrust among nations remains too high, but it must be done,” he said.

Obama said the resolution reflects the nuclear agenda he outlined in his April speech in Prague when he declared his commitment to “a world without nuclear weapons.”