The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously in favour of the need to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The vote is seen as a step towards international agreements on reducing nuclear arsenals.
The Council urged states to comply with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to refrain from testing nuclear weapons and to ensure safeguards in the use and movement of nuclear material.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, described the resolution as "a fresh start toward a new future".
Campaigners welcomed the vote but insisted that it must be followed by action to reduce nuclear weapons in practice.
“There has been much pious rhetoric from world leaders in the past, but this time there are the beginnings of real-world action to back up the fine words” said Kate Hudson, chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the UK.
“The unanimous support for creating the 'conditions for a world without nuclear weapons' must be followed through” she added.
The vote is a step on the way to an international conference in May which will renew the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US President, Barack Obama, is expected to push for international agreement on major cuts to nuclear arsenals in the run-up to the conference.
Although the USA has refused since 1999 to participate in a ban on nuclear testing, Obama emphasised that his country would now ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It has been ratified by 100 other countries since 1996.
Following the vote, representatives of the British and French governments highlighted the importance of preventing Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran responded by arguing that the UK and France had not complied with their own nuclear disarmament obligations.
In the UK, the news is likely further to increase the growing pressure on the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to scrap plans to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system. Brown yesterday announced that the number of Trident submarines would be cut from four to three.