At Summit, Diplomacy Plays Out On The Sidelines

The Nuclear Security Summit is about securing fissile material. But on the sidelines, many diplomatic stories are playing out. President Hu of China and President Obama meet in a sign of warming relations. Indian Prime Minister Singh meets Mr. Obama, another sign of strengthening ties. And where's Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

And we begin this hour with what President Obama has called the top threat to U.S. security: loose nuclear material. World leaders gathered in Washington today to figure out how to secure it all - some 500 tons of plutonium and 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: President Obama began his day by meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, who came here with one key issue on his mind, how to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Jordanian king has been encouraging the Obama administration to put some ideas on the table, including a clear endgame. A senior Arab official says there is growing frustration in the region about the lack of progress. The written statements that followed President Obama's meeting with the Jordanian king did not give any indication that the president is ready to offer bold new initiatives. News did emerge from President Obama's meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Victor Yanukovych. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Ukraine will remove all of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium by 2012.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): This is something that the United States has tried to make happen for more than 10 years. The material is enough to construct several nuclear weapons. And this demonstrates Ukraine's continued leadership in nonproliferation and comes in an important region where we know a lot of highly enriched uranium exists.

KELEMEN: The Obama administration is hoping that more countries will come forward with specific ways to secure nuclear material to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

In the president's side meetings, another major theme is how to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. That was a central topic for Mr. Obama as he sat down with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao. A handful of demonstrators stood outside the heavily guarded convention center.

(Soundbite of protestors)

KELEMEN: Tibetans and followers of Falun Gong protested the Chinese leader's visit. But analysts say the meeting shows that the two presidents have gotten over a rocky period in their relationship. The Obama administration avoided issuing a report, recently, that could have cited China as a currency manipulator. And the Chinese seem to have moved on from their criticism of the Obama administration for selling more arms to Taiwan and hosting the Dalai Lama. It's not clear yet whether President Obama can get China to sign on to tough sanctions on Iran, something the U.S. wants to do this month.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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