Global arms treaty hits resistance as deadline ticks down

This post has been updated. Please see the note below.

Negotiators at the United Nations worked to complete a treaty to regulate the global arms trade by a Friday night deadline but faced resistance from some nations, including Iran, Syria and North Korea, and a request for more time from the United States.

The treaty aims to halt the cross-border flow of weapons and ammunition that has fueled violent conflicts around the world.

But some countries made clear their unhappiness with the restrictions in the treaty, which requires approval from all 193 United Nations members. And the Obama administration said it needed to study the text, which has gone through a series of revisions in a four-week negotiating process.

Complicating the politics of the negotiation, 51 U.S. senators have joined gun rights advocates in opposing the treaty, which they fear would infringe 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms.

The senators, in letters to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, expressed "grave concern" that the treaty could affect Americans’ ability to buy arms. Arms-control advocates contend that the worry is groundless.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA and a former administration official, said the delay was "unconscionable."

"The message from the Obama administration on the arms trade treaty seems to be: 'We’ll get back to you on this.'"

The treaty would bar signatory nations from transferring conventional weapons that violate arms embargoes and seek to keep them from governments that carry out genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

It seeks to set common rules for arms transfers, hoping to improve accountability and transparency of a $60-billion business that usually proceeds out of sight.

The treaty still has a number of loopholes. It places relatively weak restrictions on the export of ammunition and creates no monitoring agency to enforce its provisions.

[Updated 5:24 p.m. Friday July 27: U.N. members ultimately failed to reach agreement by the Friday deadline. The conference chairman, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, said that despite the stalemate,“we certainly are going to have a treaty in 2012,” the Associated Press reported.]

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-- Paul Richter

 
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