President Obama met separately with South African President Jacob Zuma and Nigeria’s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, April 11 on the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit, which both leaders were in Washington to attend.
Obama praised South Africa for its historical leadership in promoting nuclear security and nonproliferation and for dismantling its own nuclear program. In his meeting with Jonathan, Obama stressed the importance of the U.S.-Nigeria relationship.
In remarks following his meeting with Zuma, Obama told reporters, “I wanted to especially single out South Africa because South Africa is singular in having had a nuclear weapon program, had moved forward on it, and then decided this was not the right path; dismantled it; and has been a strong, effective leader in the international community around nonproliferation issues.”
For taking such action, he said, “South Africa has special standing in being a moral leader on this issue. I wanted to publicly compliment President Zuma and his administration for the leadership they’ve shown. And we are looking forward toward the possibility of them helping to guide other countries down a similar direction of nonproliferation,” Obama told reporters.
A White House summary of the meeting said Obama and Zuma also discussed the Iranian nuclear issue and a broad array of other topics, including U.S. assistance to South Africa in combating HIV/AIDS, climate change and clean energy, the situation in neighboring Zimbabwe, and the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa.
That same day, Obama held talks with acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Obama expressed his appreciation for Nigeria’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit and the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual importance, including security and efforts to combat terrorism, according to a White House statement.
At their meeting, Obama and Jonathan repeated the importance of the U.S.-Nigeria relationship, respect for constitutional law and processes, human rights, promotion of economic development and resolving internal conflicts, according to the White House statement. Obama urged Jonathan to use his tenure to make historic and tangible progress in strengthening the Nigerian government’s commitment to countering corruption, and said the United States would support Jonathan in realizing his public promise for electoral reform.
The two-day summit is being attended by leaders from almost 50 nations, who are meeting in Washington as part of international efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists or rogue states.
The meeting is the largest gathering of world leaders called by an American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the 1945 meeting in San Francisco that created the United Nations.