U.N. approves new debate on arms treaty opposed by U.S. gun lobby
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to restart negotiations on a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms, a pact the powerful U.S. National Rifle Association has been lobbying hard against.
U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because U.S. President Barack Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge U.S. officials have denied.
The NRA, which has come under intense criticism for its reaction to the December 15 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, opposes the idea of an arms trade treaty and has pressured Obama to reject it.
But after Obama's re-election last month, his administration joined other members of a U.N. committee in supporting the resumption of negotiations on the treaty.
That move was set in stone on Monday when the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly voted to hold a final round of negotiations on March 18-28 in New York.
The foreign ministers of Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom - the countries that drafted the resolution - issued a joint statement welcoming the decision to resume negotiations on the pact.
"This was a clear sign that the vast majority of U.N. member states support a strong, balanced and effective treaty, which would set the highest possible common global standards for the international transfer of conventional arms," they said.
There were 133 votes in favor, none against and 17 abstentions. A number of countries did not attend, which U.N. diplomats said was due to the Christmas Eve holiday. Continued...