With U.S. President Barack Obama presiding over an historic session, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a U.S.-drafted resolution Thursday aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
Russia, China and developing nations supported the U.S.-sponsored 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 was only the fifth time the Security Council met at summit level since the U.N. was founded in 1945. 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 could cause major destruction, Obama said.
He said the global effort would seek to "lock down all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years."
"This is not about singling out an individual nation," he said. "International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced."
"We will leave this meeting with renewed determination," Obama said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saluted the national leaders for joining in the unprecedented Security Council summit on nuclear arms.
"This is a historic moment, a moment offering a fresh start toward a new future," he said.
Russian 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 aides see adoption of the resolution as an endorsement of the president's entire nuclear agenda, as laid out in his April speech in Prague. He declared his commitment to "a world without nuclear weapons."
The president called in that speech for the slashing of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, adoption of the treaty banning all nuclear tests, an international fuel bank to better safeguard nuclear material, and negotiations on a new treaty that "verifiably" ends the production of fissile materials for atomic weapons.
He also strongly backed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, which requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers to move toward nuclear disarmament. States without nuclear weapons are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology for electricity generation.
All those measures are included in the draft resolution.
In its opening paragraph, the draft reaffirms the council's commitment "to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons."
Arms control advocates say those elements are interconnected. Some nations might eventually reject the limitations of the Nonproliferation Treaty, for example, if the U.S. and other nuclear powers don't abide by that treaty's requirement to move toward disarmament by reducing their arsenals, or if they reject the test ban.
Also Thursday, the U.S. rejoined a biennial conference designed to win support for the treaty banning all nuclear bomb tests.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to help kick off that U.N. session, uniting foreign ministers and other envoys from more than 100 nations that have ratified or at least signed the 1996 treaty. It represents the first U.S. participation since 1999.
Among the invited guests were U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei, former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, media mogul Ted Turner, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and Queen Noor of Jordan — all campaigners against nuclear weapons.
Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based group designed to fight the global spread of nuclear materials, said the most important thing about the resolution "is the high-level visibility that will be taking place ... with world leaders gathering to remind both themselves and the world that we are at a nuclear tipping point."
Nunn said Wednesday Obama's message is that "we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe."
The draft 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.
The draft "expresses particular concern at the current major challenges to the nonproliferation regime that the Security Council has acted upon."
It also calls on all countries that are not parties to join the treaty "to achieve its universality at an early date," and in the interim to comply with its terms. The major countries that are not members of the NPT are India and Pakistan, which have conducted nuclear tests, and Israel which is believed to have a nuclear arsenal.