UNITED NATIONS - The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed the idea of an unprecedented treaty regulating the global arms trade yesterday, despite opposition from the United States.
Of the UN's 192 member nations, 147 voted in favor of drafting the treaty. Only the United States and Zimbabwe voted against it, with the other nations absent or abstaining.
Proponents say they hope to adopt a treaty within five years imposing controls on an international arms trade that contributes to the death of over a 1,000 people every day. It would apply only to arms sales among nations, not commercial sales to individuals.
Britain, a $3 billion annual arms exporter, has been leading the effort with Japan, Australia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Kenya, and Finland.
"It has to be as universal as possible," said John Duncan, Britain's ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament. "Some of us are manufacturers, but all nations are suppliers at one stage or another. And it's by closing those loopholes that we can stop arms flowing into the hands of criminals and terrorists."
The United States objected to the treaty proposal because it called for simple majority decisions rather than "consensus" decisions that would have essentially given it and other nations veto power.
"The only way to achieve a balanced and effective international mechanism for controlling trade in conventional arms is to proceed on a consensus basis," US diplomat Christina Rocca said.
In December 2006, 153 nations supported the idea of a treaty, with the United States casting the sole dissenting vote.
That vote opened consideration of an Arms Trade Treaty, with experts making recommendations about what might be included. Yesterday's vote moves discussions toward the nuts and bolts of possible treaty language.