U.S.-Russian led initiative against nuclear terrorism meets in Turkey

The world's five leading nuclear powers and eight other nations opened a two-day meeting Monday in Ankara of an international effort aimed at preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The meeting comes amid heightened global concern over nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.

Delegations from the United States and the other states who form the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism gathered as talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear program have stalled over disagreements on energy assistance for the North in exchange for its abandonment of nuclear weapons.

Tehran, meanwhile, adopted a milder tone amid suspicions that Iran is trying to develop such weapons.

The world's five leading nuclear powers the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France form the core of the initiative which aims to provide guidelines for keeping track of radioactive materials, ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities, and combating illicit trafficking that could put nuclear materials into the hands of terrorists.

While Russia and the United States have been at odds on how to rein in Iran's controversial nuclear program, the two countries combined to provide the impetus for this international effort to keep atomic arms from terrorist groups.

The group, which also includes Italy, Japan, Canada, China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Australia and Morocco, hopes the initiative will lead to better security for the world's nuclear materials and knowledge.

The U.S. and its allies are seeking to force the Iranians to halt uranium enrichment, which can produce material for fueling nuclear reactors but also for nuclear warheads.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed on Sunday that Iran would not give up uranium enrichment but said that he was prepared to negotiate with the international community. His speech fell short of an expected announcement that Iran had started installing 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Natanz plant, reports AP.

The Security Council approved limited economic sanctions on Dec. 23 over Iran's refusal to halt enrichment and has threatened to impose further sanctions later this month if it continues to refuse to roll back its program.

Russia and China, which have economic links to Iran, have shied away from imposing punitive measures. Iran insists its nuclear effort is solely aimed at using reactors to generate electricity.

U.S. President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, announced the initiative last July at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, urging like-minded countries to expand joint efforts to "combat nuclear terrorism on a determined and systematic basis."

The group held its first meeting in Morocco in October.

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