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Protests Await Phil. Pres. Arroyo at Nuclear Summit

ABS-CBN News.com, News Report, Rodney J. Jaleco, North America News Bureau Posted: Apr 12, 2010

WASHINGTON D.C. Leaders from 47 countries, including the Philippines, started arriving here on Sunday, April 11 (Monday in Manila), for a two-day summit to talk about the threat of nuclear terrorism.

It is the biggest gathering of world leaders in the American capital under the administration of President Barack Obama.

President Arroyo is arriving on Monday, officials revealed, in time for the start of the summit at the Washington Convention Center in downtown DC.

The Philippines will assume the presidency of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) next month in New York.

The treaty, which bounds signatory countries not to spread or allow other countries to spread nuclear weapons, fissile materials and nuclear weapons technology, is reviewed every five years under the auspices of the United Nations.

Of the 47 countries joining the summit, 38 will be represented by their heads of state or heads of government, and nine by their vice presidents, deputy prime ministers or foreign and defense ministers.

The summit has also drawn nearly a thousand journalists from all over the world. ABS-CBNs North America News Bureau was among the international news organizations accredited to cover the event.

R.P. Role vs Spread of Nuclear Weapons

Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, a career diplomat who served as Department of Foreign Affairs senior special assistant for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, will take over the NPT Review Conference presidency.

Cabactulan also replaced former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. as Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Observers described the Philippines role as that of the honest arbiter in next months discussions, which are expected to be dominated by concerns over Iran and North Korea.

Iran signed the NPT but is suspected to be trying to build nuclear weapons while North Korea is the only country that has ever pulled out of the NPT.

India and Pakistan, which are known to have nuclear weapons, and Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never acknowledged it, have not signed the NPT.

Despite the Philippines seemingly primal role in nuclear non-proliferation, no meetings are scheduled between Presidents Obama and Arroyo at least according to the latest White House briefing last Friday.

On Sunday, President Obama will hold separate bilateral meetings with the leaders of India, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Pakistan, and a courtesy call by President Umaru YarAdua of Nigeria.

The U.S. Chief Executive will hold another round of sidebar meetings on Monday with King Abdullah of Jordan, Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak, President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia, and President Hu Jintao of China.

Arroyo To Be Met With Protests

Militant Filipino-Americans, meantime, said they will be holding protests near the White House on the eve of Arroyos arrival. Philippine officials kept a tight lid on the Presidents schedule in DC.

The group Never Again to Martial Law Coalition said the Philippine presidents participation in the nuclear summit was political hypocrisy because of her dismal human rights record.

President Arroyo basks in power with greed and corruption, their statement read. They cited the arrest of 43 medical workers in Morong, Rizal, the alleged cover-up of the Maguindanao massacre culprits, and the alleged abduction and torture of Fil-Am Melissa Roxas.

Many Filipinos fear that she will not relinquish power by manipulating a failure of elections on May 10, which can be an excuse to declare Martial Law and form a junta with her at the head, the group declared.

The DC police gave them a permit to hold the rally across the White House south lawn.

The police is blocking off portions of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, especially near Blair House where President Obama is meeting some world leaders arriving ahead of the summit.

Large swaths of downtown DC will be locked down starting Sunday, under a security clamp-down that is being compared with Obamas historic inauguration last year.

Nuclear Terror is Americas Biggest Fear

Obama will be on hand to greet each of the delegations as they arrive at the Convention Center on Monday evening.

The visiting heads of delegation will be separately dined by both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday, Obama will chair day-long plenary sessions which will focus on national actions to secure nuclear material and international measures to strengthen the international system for dealing with nuclear security, according to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

Obama is investing in nuclear security because that is Americas biggest fear a nuclear bomb in the hands of rogue states or worse, terrorists.

We know that terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, are pursuing materials to build a nuclear weapon, and we know that they have the intent to use one This would be a catastrophic danger to American and global security were they able to carry out that kind of attack, Rhodes said.

The Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation, Clinton said, seems so long ago, but it was so real. It would be easy to think thats a relic of the past. But that is not the case.

She explained a 10-kiloton nuclear explosive detonated in Times Square in New York City would instantly kill a million people (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan was 18-kilotons and killed 140,000 people).

Many more would suffer from the fall-out and radiation. Beyond the human cost, a nuclear attack would touch off a tsunami of social and economic consequences, Clinton warned.

And as the lessons of 9/11 show, the ripples of such an attack would travel all across the world several times over.

Photo credit: Office of the President - image gallery, Republic of the Philippines' website: http://www.op.gov.ph/

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