WASHINGTON: As the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit began in the US capital on Thursday, President Barack Obama trashed rumours that the Pakistani prime minister’s decision to skip the conference had upset him.
“President Obama expressed his understanding of Prime Minister (Nawaz) Sharif’s decision to cancel his visit to the United States and remain in Pakistan following this terrorist attack,” said the White House while disclosing details of a telephone call the president made to the Pakistani leader on Wednesday.
The phone call, made two days after Mr Sharif announced his decision to cancel his visit, fuelled rumours that Mr Obama wanted the prime minister to reconsider his decision.
The White House’s statement, however, not only rejected the suggestion but also underlined the purpose of the call.
Pakistan continues to occupy a central position in summit-related discussions
“The president reiterated the US commitment to partner with Pakistan to counter terrorism,” the White House added.
Despite the prime minister’s absence, Pakistan continues to occupy a central position, at least in the media, in summit-related discussions.
“Terrorist attacks in Belgium and Pakistan lend a greater sense of urgency to President Obama’s final nuclear security summit,” wrote Voice of America’s Barbara Slavin.
Miles Pomper, a senior research associate at the James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies, told VOA that China was converting a reactor in Nigeria so that it did not need to use highly enriched uranium.
“The US National Nuclear Security Administration hopes that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will help convert similar research reactors in Pakistan, Syria and Iran,” said Mr Pomper.
The Iran deal was meant to ensure that the world’s nuclear club would not expand beyond its current roster of nine countries: the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, he added.
In a commentary on the summit, Fox news noted that Pakistan and Russia were among the “powerful players” not attending the summit.
“The absence of the Russian government and the prime minister of Pakistan — both important nuclear powers — could hinder the talks,” it added.
US News and World Report noted that although Syed Tariq Fatemi would represent Pakistan at the summit, the prime minister’s “absence may hamper international efforts aimed at calming atomic tensions between Pakistan and India”.