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UN small arms conference ends in "total meltdown"

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060708/ts_nm/arms_un_dc UN small arms conference ends in total meltdown By Irwin Arieff 1 hour, 54 minutes ago UNITED NATIONS
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060708/ts_nm/arms_un_dc

      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
      day.

      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
      flooded the
      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
      embargoes.

      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
      said.

      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.
      General Assembly.

      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
      missiles.

      But two weeks of negotiations and speeches came to
      naught.

      "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.
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