President Bush, pointing to a black market weapons network led by the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, said Wednesday that no new countries should have the ability to enrich or process nuclear material.
He argued that international efforts to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction have been neither broad nor effective enough and require tougher action from all nations.
"The greatest threat before humanity today is the possibility of secret and sudden attack with chemical or biological or radiological or nuclear weapons," Bush said.
"We must confront the danger with open eyes and unbending purpose," he said in a speech at the National Defense University. "I've made clear to all the policy of this nation: America will not permit the terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons.
" His call to prevent countries from acquiring the equipment and technology to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel for plutonium even if the stated intent is to build civilian power facilities was likely to anger Iran and North Korea and the countries that have supplied them.
Bush for the first time publicly accused Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's network of supplying to North Korea the centrifuge technology that is needed to make highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The administration previously had said that it believed Khan's network was supplying weapons technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran but had not specified what.
The administration and North Korea are locked in a dispute over whether the Koreans are trying to develop nuclear weapons using highly enriched uranium. North Korea has acknowledged building nuclear weapons using plutonium but denies it is trying to build a weapon with highly enriched uranium a key dispute as the two nations head into talks later this month with four other countries, including China.
With the president still being criticized over whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, he also used the speech to outline the role that good U.S. intelligence has played in the ongoing dismantlement of Khan's network, as well as Libya's commitment last December to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs.
He gave much of the credit for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's action against Khan to the groundwork laid over several years by U.S. intelligence.
Bush singled out the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, for criticism, calling for the creation of a special committee to focus on safeguards and verification and to ensure that nations comply with international obligations.
He also complained that nations such as Iran, which has been under investigation for proliferation, has been allowed to sit on the IAEA board of governors. "Those actively breaking the rules should not be entrusted with enforcing the rules," the president said.
The agency is seen as ineffective by many in the Bush administration who cite the agency's failure to stop weapons programs in Libya, North Korea and other countries.
The president also urged other countries to step up funding for programs aimed at securing vulnerable nuclear arsenals in Russia and other former Soviet-bloc nations. And he called for an expansion of similar efforts elsewhere in the world though he made no mention of any additional U.S. funding. Democrats have accused the administration of underfunding the program, both in Russia and elsewhere.