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Activists Call For Arms Trade Treaty at UN

Edith Honan

UNITED NATIONS - Former U.N. military commanders, pressure groups and diplomats urged the United Nations on Tuesday to pass more stringent controls on the global arms trade.1010 07

At a news conference organized by aid group Oxfam International, they called for a framework to prevent arms transfers in cases where they are likely to be used in violation of international law, to fuel conflict or undermine development.

There is no international regulatory framework currently in place that regulates the sale of arms, and national and regional controls that do exist vary widely, said Anna MacDonald, a campaign manager for Oxfam.

"At best (this) means that there is a patchwork of arms controls around the world and at worst it means that it's very easy for arms dealers ... to find their way around these regulations," she said.

The campaign is aimed at passing an arms trade treaty as part of a process that began in the U.N. General Assembly last year when 153 countries voted in favor, 24 abstained and only the United States voted against starting work on one.

At the time, the powerful U.S. gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association, or NRA, rallied its supporters to oppose the treaty.

John Duncan, Britain's ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament, said he had met industry representatives and lobbying groups, including the NRA, in the United States, Eastern Europe and Asia.

"The (treaty) is not about civilian possession as some would have you believe," he said. "It is not about preventing countries' rights to equip themselves for self defense. It is about ensuring that the arms trade is responsible."

"This is about the trade in weapons, the trade between states," he said.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, former commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, described his frustration at disarming militants who had easy access to new weapons.

"Sometimes you had the feeling that you were mopping the floor when the tap was open. One moment you have disarmed a group and then, a week later, you know that it is the same group, with fresh arms and ammunition," he said.

© 2007 Reuters

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