Obama flashes peace sign at Washington nuclear summit
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Obama flashes peace sign at Washington nuclear summit

US president grins, makes hand gesture during group photo with 54 world leaders gathered to discuss atomic threats

US President Barack Obama flashes a peace sign as he and other world leaders take part in the Nuclear Security Summit family photo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on April 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)
US President Barack Obama flashes a peace sign as he and other world leaders take part in the Nuclear Security Summit family photo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on April 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

US President Barack Obama flashed the peace sign while grinning during a group photo with world leaders gathered in Washington for a nuclear security summit.

Obama was the only head of state to do so during a team photo with 54 other presidents and prime ministers meeting for a two-day summit on terrorist threats involving nuclear weapons and the recent nuclear deal with Iran.

In the photo, the other world leaders mostly smile with their hands at their sides. A second set of photos show them all waving.

During the conference on Friday, Obama hailed the Iranian nuclear deal as a “substantial success” and a model for future diplomacy.

Hosting his last nuclear security summit, Obama sought to use the controversial Iran deal as an argument for his carrot-and-stick approach to deterring nuclear proliferation, and he credited Iran with taking steps to meet its commitments. Critics of the deal in the US and abroad are livid about the sanctions relief Iran is receiving in response.

Obama acknowledged that the nuclear deal hasn’t swept away other issues the US and other nations still have with Iran; support for terrorism and Tehran’s ballistic missile program typically top that list. Still, he said all the nations that negotiated the deal could agree that it’s been an effective way to address the narrower issue of nuclear proliferation in Iran.

The US president also said that more cooperation was needed to prevent the Islamic State group’s “madmen” and other extremists from getting a nuclear weapon.

The threat of terrorists of using nuclear material in a “dirty bomb” — or even obtaining an atomic weapon — has loomed large over the summit, punctuated by revelations that IS members tracked a Belgian nuclear scientist on video.

“ISIL has already used chemical weapons, including mustard gas, in Syria and Iraq,” Obama said, using an acronym for the IS group.

“There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they most certainly would use it to continue to kill as many innocent people as possible.”

US President Barack Obama and other world leaders wave at the Nuclear Security Summit family photo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on April 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)
US President Barack Obama and other world leaders wave at the Nuclear Security Summit family photo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on April 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

Obama said about 2,000 tons of nuclear materials are stored around the world at civilian and military facilities, some of them not properly secured.

“Just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — would kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people,” he said.

“It would be a humanitarian, political, economic and environmental catastrophe with global ramifications for decades,” he added.

Obama has held four such summits in hopes of advancing the disarmament goals he set at the start of his presidency, when he declared in Prague that nuclear weapons were “the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War.”

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