British Prime Minister Gordon Brown signaled Wednesday at the UN General Assembly that he is prepared to scale back the country's Trident submarine nuclear deterrent as part of a "global bargain" to reduce the world's nuclear arsenal.
"If we are serious about the ambition of a nuclear-free world we will need statesmanship, not brinkmanship," he said.
Brown is expected to flesh out details of his statement on Thursday at the Security Council, in a special session on nonproliferation and disarmament convened by President Barack Obama. The United States is the current chair of the council.
In his address to the four other permanent members and the 10 rotating non-permanent members, Brown is expected to announce that Britain could scale back the planned 20-billion-pound ($33-billion) Trident modernization program from four submarines to three.
A subcommittee, including Britain's relevant government ministers, the chiefs of staff and the heads of the intelligence agencies, is expected to be instructed to come forward with detailed recommendations by the end of the year.
The future of Britain's nuclear arsenal has become a hot topic of debate as concerns over the country's public finances have escalated - borrowing has soared as tax revenues have plummeted during the recession and spending has spiked to pay for unemployment benefits and the bailout of the banks. Cutting the number of submarines could save billions over the coming years.
However, Brown dismissed suggestions that his initiative was motivated by the need to save money.
"Obviously there are cost implications in every decision, but that is not what is uppermost in our mind," he told listeners on a phone-in on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Radio Five Live station.
In his address to the General Assembly, Brown highlighted the nuclear issue as one of five priorities for the international community, together with the economy, climate change, terrorism and poverty.
"Global problems can only be mastered through global solutions," he said.
In his opening remarks to the General Assembly, Brown managed a side-swipe on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who earlier described the Security Council as the "terror council" for failing to prevent or intervene in dozens of wars around the world since its creation in 1945.
"I stand here to reaffirm the United Nations Charter, not to tear it up. I call on every nation to support its universal principles," Brown told the General Assembly.
Also speaking at the UN on Wednesday was French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who condemned "the behavior of those who still continue to grow indecently rich, after leading the world to the brink of disaster," and called for a vast overhaul of the world's financial system.
Sarkozy warned: "The threats of the worst crises are not behind us, but ahead of us."
His speech came on the eve of the meeting of the G-20 summit of the 20 wealthiest nations on Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"Now we all know toward what catastrophes our obstinate attempts to solve the problems of the 21st century with 20th century ideas and instruments may lead us," he said in his speech.
"We all have a historic responsibility. We are right in the middle of an unprecedented financial and economic crisis," he told the UN "We are on the threshold of a planetary ecological disaster. We must right now invent a new world where the follies of yesterday will no longer be possible, and this is our responsibility now."
"We are accountable to the tens of millions of men and women who have lost their jobs, their homes and their savings, to the billion human beings who are suffering from malnutrition, to the hundreds of millions who have no access to water, energy, health care, education, to those who fear for their future and for the future of their children."
"To those people, we must restore hope," Sarkozy said.