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Terrorism Threat Is Focus of Nuclear Summit

Police look at bags of evidence material during a search in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek following the March 22 bombings in Brussels, Belgium. (REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

Police look at bags of evidence material during a search in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek following the March 22 bombings in Brussels, Belgium. (REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

Terrorists getting nuclear material to make bombs will be discussed among world leaders at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.

It isn’t just the deadly March 22 terrorist attack in the Belgium capital.

It is also reports from Belgium officials that two brothers who carried out suicide attacks at the Brussels airport tried to get nuclear materials.

The two – Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui -- placed a camera near the home of a nuclear researcher in Belgium. Officials suspect they were monitoring the man to obtain material that makes a more powerful bomb.

Jane Harman is director of the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. She said leaders from 53 nations who will attend the summit should focus on three major issues.

“The threats aren’t one size fits all,” Harman said during a nuclear summit preview this week.

“We have to keep our eyes on great powers like Russia. We have to watch regional pariahs like Iran and North Korea, and ensure that terror groups never get their hands on nuclear materials.”

Harman said the concern is that Islamic State, or other terrorist groups, could set off a “dirty bomb.” A dirty bomb uses conventional explosives, such as dynamite, mixed with radioactive materials.

The Washington nuclear summit runs Thursday and Friday, March 31 and April 1.

The White House released a brief Tuesday, saying that a terrorist attack using nuclear material would “create political, economic social and psychological havoc.”

Ben Rhoades is Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

“We have seen ample proof that terrorist organizations like (Islamic State) have no regard for innocent human life or international norms, and that only redoubles the need for us to have effective international nuclear security approaches,” he said Wednesday.

One nation that will not be represented at the summit is Iran.

Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association told VOA that Iran’s participation would have provided a chance to build on last year’s nuclear deal. The deal required Iran to remove enriched uranium and take down nuclear-making equipment.

But Davenport said Iran “is not providing adequate assurances that its nuclear activities are protected against acts of nuclear terrorism.”

Previous nuclear summits have worked to reduce the number of nations with nuclear arms. The White House says 14 countries and Taiwan have eliminated all nuclear materials from their countries since 2010. That includes Ukraine and Japan.

More countries with nuclear weapons would create an “arms race,” said Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer in international relations with Troy University in Seoul. “It would be extremely damaging and plays right into the hands of the hardliners,” such as North Korea.

I'm Bruce Alpert.

Brian Padden and Barbara Slavin reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted their reports for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

regional – adj. an accent that occurs in a particular place

pariah – adj. a nation that is hated and rejected by people

dynamite – n. a powerful explosive that is often used in the form of a stick

radioactive – adj. having or producing a powerful and dangerous form of energy, called radiation

ample – adj. having or providing enough or more than enough of what is needed

proof – n. something which shows that something is true or correct

approach – n. a way of dealing with something

participation – n. to take part in an activity or event with others

hardliner n. someone who takes a rigid, uncompromising position.