Addressing a crowd of roughly 3,000 students in Strasbourg, co-host of NATO's 60th anniversary summit this weekend, Obama warned that "even with the Cold War now over, the spread of nuclear weapons, or the theft of nuclear material, could lead to the extermination of any city on the planet."
Obama added he would, at an EU-U.S. summit Sunday in Prague, "lay out an agenda to seek … a world without nuclear weapons."
The crowd at the sports hall in Strasbourg, made up of students mainly from Germany and France, erupted in cheers and long applause.
Obama's comments came just two days after a meeting with Russian President Alexander Medvedev Wednesday in London; the leaders had announced plans to seek a deal aimed at reducing their Cold War-era nuclear arsenals.
It may very well be that Obama will make the fruit of the talks with Medvedev the foundation of said agenda. Observers say the U.S.-Russian bilateral went quite smoothly when it comes to reducing nuclear weapons.
Obama said Friday the United States and Russia should lead by example and cut their nuke arsenals. It would then be easier for the West to convince the likes of Iran and North Korea to drop their nuclear ambitions, he added.
That apparently doesn't mean being soft on them.
In a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier Friday, Obama said Iran must not be allowed to get nuclear weapons and warned North Korea not to push the envelope with its missile launch.
Pyongyang has said it wants to send a satellite into space over the next few days, a move observers have classified as a disguised long-range missile test.
If North Korea goes ahead with the test, the West would take "steps to show North Korea it cannot threaten the safety and stability of other countries with impunity."
"The response so far from the North Koreans has been not just unhelpful but has resorted to the sort of language that has led to North Korea's international isolation in the international community for a very long time," Obama said.
Stefan Nicola, UPI Europe Correspondent