With Barack Obama presiding, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution today 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.
The UN 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 US 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 UN 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.
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.
* (Reuters) At the meeting, Gordon Brown said the world should consider "far tougher sanctions" against Iran if it continues to seek a nuclear bomb.
Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, but it is defying UN Security Council resolutions ordering it to suspend enriching uranium.
"As evidence of its breach of international agreements grows, we must now consider far tougher sanctions together," Brown said .
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he supported dialogue with Tehran but so far it had produced no results and Iran had continued to enrich uranium.
"There comes a time when stubborn facts will compel us to take a decision if we want a world without nuclear weapons," Sarkozy said after the Security Council passed a resolution calling on nuclear weapons states to scrap their arsenals.
Both leaders also spoke about North Korea's nuclear weapons program, saying it was violating international regulations.
"If we have the courage to affirm and impose sanctions together against those who violate resolutions of the Security Council, we will be lending credibility to our commitment towards a world with fewer nuclear weapons," Sarkozy said.