UN small arms conference ends in "total meltdown"
By Irwin Arieff 1 hour, 54 minutes ago
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. meeting meant to
expand a five-year-old crackdown on the illicit global
trade in small arms ended in chaos on Friday as
delegates ran out of time without reaching agreement
on a plan for future action.
"There was a total meltdown at the end. You don't know
if it was a conspiracy or just a screw-up," said one
delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other delegates said negotiations had simply proceeded
too slowly, leaving too much to accomplish on the last
But Rebecca Peters of the London-based International
Action Network on Small Arms accused governments of
letting a few states "hold them all hostage and to
derail any plans which might have brought any
improvements in this global crisis."
IANSA identified the main players blocking agreement
as Cuba, India,
Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Other gun control activists
named China, Egypt and Venezuela as well.
The meeting was dogged from the start by zealous
members of the U.S. National Rifle Association, who
United Nations with letters falsely accusing it of
secretly plotting to take away Americans' guns on July
4, a U.N. holiday marking U.S. Independence Day when
delegates did not meet.
The George W. Bush administration, an ally of the
rifle association, set the tone from the start when
UnderSecretary of State for Arms Control Robert Joseph
laid out a long list of proposals that Washington
would not accept.
Joseph, however, said Washington was willing to
endorse a set of global principles aimed at keeping
small arms out of the hands of groups intent on human
rights abuse, genocide or breaking U.N. arms
The idea of tightening controls on international arms
transfers turned out to be a popular one, winning
support from 115 governments, IANSA's Anthea Lawson
But plans for a formal appeal for tougher controls
died at the meeting's end, although it was expected to
resurface later in the year in the 192-nation U.N.
The conference was called to update a 2001 action plan
against illegal small arms, which as defined by the
United Nations range from pistols and rifles to
grenades, mortars and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft
But two weeks of negotiations and speeches came to
"In my estimation, an agreed final declaration was
within grasp," said conference president Prasad
Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka's U.N. ambassador. But he said
the meeting had still succeeded by focusing attention
on the small arms issue.