World leaders called on Tuesday for strong steps to combat nuclear terrorism, wrapping up a 53-nation summit overshadowed by North Korea's planned rocket launch.

“Today we have set a new milestone in making the world a safer and more peaceful place,” said South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who hosted the summit, at the end of the two-day event.

Civilian use

The leaders from 53 nations called in a communique for steps to minimise civilian use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used to make bombs.

They also called for safeguarding world stockpiles of HEU and plutonium, and tightening security of radioactive material that could be used to create a “dirty” bomb.

“Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security,” said the leaders. “Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international cooperation.”

The North's nuclear and missile ambitions were not officially on the agenda, but they were the focus on the sidelines.

The North stole some of the limelight right up to the end, releasing a statement just before the close of the summit snubbing demands from U.S. President Obama and other leaders to scrap a satellite launch planned for April.

A snub

Mr. Obama had repeatedly denounced the rocket launch, which is seen by the U.S. and its allies as a disguised ballistic missile test.

North Korea responded by announcing it would go ahead with what it calls a peaceful satellite launch and told Mr. Obama to drop his “confrontational mindset”.

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