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Debate to limit international conventional arms trade with U.N. renewed after election

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A call to restrict conventional arms worldwide has been renewed following the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama. The debate had gone on the back-burner with the re-election, Hurricane Sandy as well as other national and international issues. The United Nations began to hurriedly redress the issue hours after Obama's victory at the polls.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There had been complaints from U.N. delegates and gun control activists have that the debate had been unjustly pushed back last summer because Obama feared attacks from Mitt Romney if his administration was seen as supportive of the act. The White House has denied these allegations.

Discussions at the U.N. had broken off after the United States, along with Russia and other major arms producers said they had problems with the draft treaty and asked for more time.

In response, the U.N. General Assembly's disarmament committee moved quickly after Obama's win to approve a resolution calling for a new round of talks March 18-28. It passed with 157 votes in favor, none against and 18 abstentions.

U.N. diplomats said the vote was also largely delayed due to Hurricane Sandy, which caused a three-day closure of the United Nations last week.

An official at the U.S. mission said Washington's objectives have not changed.

"We seek a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have been articulating throughout," the official said.

"We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms," he said.

Privately, officials say that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.

The main reason the talks are continuing is because, the U.S., which is the world's biggest arms trader, accounting for more than 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers reversed U.S. policy on the issue in 2009 after Obama was first elected and decided to support a treaty.

Countries that abstained from the vote include Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Cuba and Iran. China, a major arms producer that has traditionally abstained, voted in favor.

Russia cast the only abstention among the top six arms-exporting nations. Britain, France and Germany joined China and the United States in support of the resolution.

The measure now goes to the 193-nation General Assembly for a formal vote. It is expected to pass.

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