Tuesday, July 02, 2013

U.S. Fails To Join Allies In Signing UN Weapons Treaty

U.S. Fails to Join Allies in Signing UN Global Arms Trade Treaty

By Flavia Krause-Jackson

The U.S. didn’t join the U.K., France and other major Western allies at the United Nations today to sign the first international treaty regulating the $85 billion-a-year global arms trade.
The absence of the world’s top arms dealer at a morning ceremony in New York drawing about 60 nations casts a shadow over a decades-long push to stop illegal cross-border shipments of conventional weapons. Some of the world’s most violent nations, from drug-plagued Mexico to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, are among the signatories.
While supporters say the treaty wouldn’t affect U.S. domestic sales or impinge on the constitutional right to bear arms, it would be a political minefield at home. The accord wouldn’t muster enough votes for approval by the U.S. Senate, and the National Rifle Association, which says it has more than 4.5 million members, has lobbied against it.
“I suspect they probably took a decision that, politically, it made sense not to completely alienate people in Congress on something that, in their opinion, doesn’t matter when they sign it as long as they sign it,” said Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International USA’s managing director for government relations, in a May 31 telephone interview.
The treaty was approved two months ago by more than two-thirds of the 193-member UN General Assembly even as Iran, Syria and North Korea voted against the accord, and 23 countries, including Russia, a major arms dealer, abstained.
The next step is for UN members to sign it, as many are doing today, and then for their legislators to ratify the pact.
In the U.S. Senate, a two-thirds majority would be needed for Senate ratification. On March 23, senators voted 53-46 for a symbolic measure opposing U.S. participation in the treaty. Eight Democrats and all 45 Senate Republicans opposed it.
Thomas Countryman, the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation who led the U.S. delegation at the treaty negotiations, told the Atlantic Council in Washington on May 15 that the U.S. “will sign in the very near future.”

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