WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama closed his landmark nuclear summit on Tuesday with a tip of the hat to Canada for its move to rid itself of some of its weapons-grade uranium and for its call on nations to spend billions more on nuclear security.
There was just one problem. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada hasn’t, in fact, made such an appeal.
“I have not made that request, but I can assure you there have been discussions among the G8 partners . . . it began as a G8 initiative,” he told a news conference at the end of the summit.
“Canada is not the originator of the request, but obviously we are going to be looking at this request very seriously and I know all our G8 partners are doing the same.”
The confusion came at the conclusion of a historic summit that was billed by the Obama administration as the largest gathering of world leaders on U.S. soil since the United Nations founding conference in San Francisco in 1945.
The summit resulted in consensus among the 47 nations in attendance. They agreed on a wide range of initiatives aimed at reining in errant nuclear materials that could fall into the hands of terrorists.
“Today the United States is joining with our Canadian partners in calling on nations to commit $10 billion to extending our highly successful global partnership to strengthen nuclear security around the world,” Obama said in his closing remarks, a nugget of news that quickly popped up on websites and blogs from the U.S. to India.
Canada has already contributed $1 billion to the global partnership, Harper said, explaining that Obama was calling for an additional $10 billion from countries around the world. But it’s not a request initiated by Canada, he reiterated.
There was no immediate explanation from the White House explaining the confusion.
The nations at the summit issued a communique late Tuesday, agreeing to lock down the world’s most vulnerable and volatile nuclear materials within the next four years in an attempt to prevent terrorists from unleashing a global catastrophe.
“Nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security and strong nuclear security measure the most effective means to prevent terrorist criminals or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials,” it stated.
It emphasized “the need for co-operation among states to effectively prevent and respond to incidents of illicit nuclear trafficking and agree to share….information and expertise through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms in areas such as nuclear detection, forensics, law enforcement and the development of new technologies.”
Earlier Tuesday, Obama called it a “cruel irony of history” that the threat of nuclear terrorism is mounting even as the possibility of nuclear war between countries diminishes.
“The risk of a nuclear attack has gone up,” Obama told the summit amid the tightest security in D.C. since the president’s inauguration last year.
“Terrorist networks such as al-Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it. Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life, and striking a major blow to global peace and stability.”
Obama urged nations to move beyond discussion and take concrete action over the next four years to ensure that nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorist hands.
“It is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security — to our collective security.”