Obama says threat of nuclear weapons remains

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U.S. President Barack Obama listens to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, right, during opening remarks of the plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. At left is Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — President Barack Obama said Tuesday the threat of nuclear weapons remains a potent challenge for the globe to confront, telling foreign leaders that "the security of the world depends on the actions that we take."

Obama, speaking at a nuclear security summit in South Korea, said the international community had made progress in removing nuclear materials and improving security at nuclear facilities around the globe. As a result, he said more of the world's nuclear materials won't fall into the hands of terrorists.

But the president warned "there are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places."

"It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and that's not an exaggeration, that's the reality that we face," Obama said.

Obama was seeking to build upon a goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons despite disagreements with Russia over the next phase of a disarmament program he views as a central part of his foreign policy agenda. The president urged a summit of more than 50 nations to fortify their will as they work to reduce nuclear weapons and materials.

"I believe we can maintain that will and that focus. I believe we must, because the security of the world depends on the actions that we take," Obama said.

Obama was meeting later in the day with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan, which has had a tense relationship with the United States during the past year. It comes on the heels of offers by U.S. officials to give Pakistan's spy chief advanced notice of the CIA's drone campaign against al-Qaida in Pakistan and limits on targets. But the offers were rejected by the Pakistanis, leaving relations strained.

U.S.-Pakistani relations have been on rocky ground following a series of incidents last year, including the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden and a border incident where U.S. forces returned fire on what they believed came from a Pakistani border post, killing 24 Pakistani troops.