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Obama to scale back nuclear weapons strategy


US President Barack Obama plans to place new restrictions on the use of atomic weapons as part of a major US nuclear policy overhaul. But in an interview with The New York Times, Obama said he would make exceptions for "outliers like Iran and North Korea".

The emphasis of the new approach is on non-nuclear deterrence and eliminating Cold War ambiguities about when such weapons could be used.

Obama will unveil his strategy Tuesday, two days before signing a treaty with Russia to slash stockpiles of long-range nuclear warheads by a third, and less than a week before hosting world leaders at a nuclear summit in Washington.

In order to pursue a key foreign policy aim of halting nuclear proliferation, Obama has committed the US - the only country ever to unleash a wartime atomic bomb - to a series of nuclear arms cuts.

"The Nuclear Posture Review states very clearly: if you are a non-nuclear weapons state that is compliant with the NPT, you have a negative assurance we will not be using nuclear weapons against you," he told the Times.

"That doesn't mean that you might not engage in some actions that are profoundly detrimental to US national security, which require action on our part."

In a landmark speech in Prague in April 2009, Obama promised to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. But he has admitted he does not expect to see that goal reached during his lifetime.

From 12-13 April, world leaders will discuss in Washington the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism and steps that can be taken to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

Among those attending will be Chinese President Hu Jintao, under global pressure to swing behind imposing fresh sanctions on Iran for its continued refusal to rein in its suspect nuclear program.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also take part, along with high-level officials from nuclear-armed neighbours, India and Pakistan.