Ukraine, the scene of the world's worst nuclear accident, pledged Monday to dispose of all its stocks of highly enriched uranium by 2012, Ukrainian and U.S. officials said.
The landmark commitment from the former Soviet republic came at the start of an unprecedented nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C., gathering 47 nations and hosted by President Barack Obama.
The announcement followed Obama's first meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who took office in February.
"President Yanukovych announced Ukraine's decision to get rid of all of its stocks of highly enriched uranium by the time of the next Nuclear Security Summit," the two leaders said in a joint statement
"Ukraine intends to remove a substantial part of those stocks this year," it added.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the United States would help provide technical expertise and financing for the disposal of the uranium in Ukraine, which witnessed the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.
Ukraine's promise to dispose of all highly enriched uranium by 2012 marked the first concrete achievement of the summit. It was also a highly symbolic act by a country that gave up its Soviet-era nuclear missiles.