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Greeted by Protests Obama Calls for Nuclear-Free World, EU Acceptance of Turkey

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5 Apr 09 | AJE

They say his visit will bring more turmoil to the Middle East, and that he’s armed with demands that could divide Turkey. Still, Barack Obama, the US president, will be addressing the Turkish parliament, and will work with his Turkish counterparts to mend an alliance badly damaged by the US invasion of Iraq. Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught reports from Ankara (2:59):

Barack Obama has promised that the US will do all it takes to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

In a major speech on Sunday in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, the US president said Washington would take “concrete steps” to reduce its nuclear arsenal and encourage other nations to do the same.

He said countries needed to co-operate and have patience to achieve a nuclear-free world.

“Today the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not,” Obama said in front of thousands of Czechs at a square in front of the Prague Castle.

“More nations have acquired these weapons, tests continue … the knowledge to build these weapons has spread.

“If we say to ourselves that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable we are saying that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

Obama, in Prague as part of an eight-day visit to Europe, was due to travel to Turkey later on Sunday.

Nuclear energy bank

Obama said the US will seek ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty on nuclear weapons.

He proposed a nuclear energy bank that nations could access to meet their requirements. The banks in turn would prevent them from using other nuclear materials that could potentially be used to make bombs.

He said that nations should have access to nuclear power for peaceful reasons to combat climate change and to allow people a way out of poverty.

Obama also said that the US would host a summit to discuss the “locking down” of loose nuclear materials, before the end of the year.

In reference to North Korea and Iran, he said that nations who break the rules of nuclear proliferation must be punished.

He said that if Iran continued with its nuclear programme, which many suspect is for weaponry rather than Tehran’s stated goal of nuclear energy, the US would build a proposed missile defence shield in Eastern Europe.

‘If the Iranian threat is eliminated we will have stronger basis for security and the driving force for missile defence construction in Europe will be removed,” he said.

Obama’s speech came hours after North Korea launched a satellite into orbit on a rocket that has the capacity to carry nuclear warheads long-range.

Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Prague, said: “He’s going to try to lead by example … and rally international support for renewed anti-nuclear weapons steps.

“More concretely he is going to, and has already begun engaging the Russians to restart nuclear arms reduction and limitation talks with a view towards having a treaty on that subject completed before the end of the year.”

Nuclear weapons stocks

  • There are an estimated 24,000 nuclear weapons in the world
  • Russia owns 13,000 of the world stocks
  • The US has around 10,000
  • France, China and the UK also have stocks
  • Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons but are not members of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty
  • Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons but refuses to discuss its capabilities

Turkish accession

Obama also urged the EU on Sunday to accept Turkey as a full member of the 27-nation bloc, a move immediately rejected by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

The disagreement was a rare sign of divergence at an EU-US summit stage-managed to relaunch transatlantic ties, strained under the administration of George Bush, the former US president.

“The United States and Europe must approach Muslims as our friends, neighbours and partners in fighting injustice, intolerance and violence, forging a relationship based on mutual respect and mutual interests,” Obama told the summit.

“Moving forward towards Turkish membership in the EU would be an important signal of your [EU] commitment to this agenda and ensure that we continue to anchor Turkey firmly in Europe,” he told EU leaders.

Turkey has long been seeking to join the bloc, and Obama’s comments were a reaffirmation of US support for that goal.

But there has been resistance among EU states such as Germany and France to its membership, including among ruling conservatives.

Sarkozy said it was up to the EU member states to decide on Turkish entry and reiterated his opposition.

“I have always been opposed to this entry,” he told France’s TF1 television on Sunday.

“I still am and I think I can say that the immense majority of member states shares the position of France.

“Turkey is a very great country, an ally of Europe, an ally of the United States. It will stay a privileged partner. My position hasn’t changed and it won’t change.”

Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Ankara, said: “Turkey’s accession process could go on till 2020 and beyond. Recent provincial elections suggest the Turkish public is keen for Turkey to put more effort into the EU venture.

“But there is national pride too. If the EU keeps pushing back, there are many people in Turkey saying: “Well, why should we bother?”

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Written by Editors

5 April 2009 at 4:22 pm

Posted in International, US

Tagged with , , , ,

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