U.S. President Barack Obama says he wants a world without nuclear weapons. But will that ever happen?
Obama showed he's serious this week. He chaired a historic summit meeting of the U.N. Security Council which unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that envisages "a world without nuclear weapons".
It was the first time a U.S. president chaired a meeting of the Security Council since it was established in 1946.
John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, an advocacy group, identified serious weaknesses in the resolution, including the absence of mandatory disarmament steps for the world's five official nuclear powers -- the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.
Some diplomats from countries without nuclear weapons said the lack of mandatory disarmament moves is not just a weakness, but a loophole the five big powers -- which have permanent seats and vetoes on the Security Council -- deliberately inserted into the resolution so that they wouldn't have to scrap their beloved nuclear arsenals.
An official from one of the five big powers appeared to confirm this in an "off-record" email to Reuters explaining the language in the resolution: "I would underline that creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons is not the same as calling for a world free of nuclear weapons." He added that "the spirit of the resolution is much more about non-proliferation than disarmament."
A diplomat and disarmament expert from a European country with no nuclear weapons said this was typical of the "cynicism" of some permanent Security Council members. He added that the U.S. delegation had made very clear that the use of the word "disarmament" meant total nuclear disarmament -- perhaps not today, but someday.
China's President Hu Jintao said China was not planning to get rid of its nuclear arsenal anytime soon. So did French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The resolution didn't name Iran and North Korea. However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Sarkozy filled in the blanks and called for tougher sanctions against Iran for defying U.N. demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.
The resolution didn't mention Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, the four others known or assumed to have nuclear weapons. But it did politely ask "other states" to sign the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and get rid of their atom bombs.
Libya's Muammar Gaddafi was the only leader of a council member state that stayed away from the meeting. Several council diplomats expressed relief at his absence, saying they had been afraid the long-winded Gaddafi would have exceeded the five-minute limit for statements.
(Photos by Mike Segar/REUTERS)