Obama to chair historic disarmament meeting

US President Barack Obama chairs a special UN Security Council session on nuclear non-proliferation Thursday amid signs that Russia may be warming to the idea of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear plans.


US President Barack Obama is set to chair a special UN Security Council session on nuclear proliferation Thursday, the first such session to be led by a US president amid signs that Russia might be prepared to soften its opposition to sanctions against Iran.


Speaking to reporters in New York after holding talks with his US counterpart Wednesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated Moscow’s position that “sanctions are seldom productive” but, he added, “they are sometimes inevitable”.


Russia has previously opposed sanctions against Iran. But amid signs that the US and Russia were inching closer towards pressing the “reset” button on the strained relations between the two former Cold War foes, Obama last week announced plans to drop an anti-missile defence shield near Russia’s borders.


Obama has been seeking a united position on Iran ahead of an Oct. 1 meeting between Iran and the six-power grouping known as the ‘P5+1”— which includes the five permanent members of the UN Security council (Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States) plus Germany.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not specifically refer to Tehran’s nuclear programme during his UN General Assembly speech Wednesday. But in an interview with the leading US daily, the Washington Post, Ahmadinejad said Iran would ask Washington to sell it enriched uranium at upcoming talks with the United States and five other powers and that he would let Iranian atomic scientists meet US experts.


China says sanctions ‘not conducive to diplomatic efforts’


On the sidelines of the UN meeting Wednesday, Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao to press Beijing to cooperate with US efforts to try to resolve the longstanding Iranian nuclear dispute.


But on Thursday, China reiterated its opposition to sanctions.


"We always believe that sanctions and pressure are not the way out," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters. "At present, it is not conducive to diplomatic efforts."


The West suspects Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability under the cover of a civilian atomic programme.


But Tehran denies the charge and maintains that it will instead discuss proposals to promote global nuclear disarmament at next week's meeting in Geneva.


In his address to the UN General Assembly Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the Iranian regime that it would be making a "tragic mistake" if it thought the international community would not respond to its nuclear programme.


The Obama administration has also been pushing to strengthen the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has controlled the spread of nuclear weapons for decades, and to urge nations to sign up to the treaty.


A separate high-level UN conference is scheduled for Friday to facilitate the entry into force of the CTBT.


Drawn up in 1996, the CTBT has been signed by 181 countries and ratified by 149. But it needs to be ratified by nine others, including China and the United States, before coming into force.


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