Obama urged to back tough arms trade treaty at U.N. talks

Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:02pm EST
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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Three dozen arms control and human rights groups have written to U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of new arms-trade negotiations at the United Nations next month, urging him to back a tough treaty that would end loopholes in international weapons sales.

Arms control campaigners say one person every minute dies worldwide as a result of armed violence and a convention is needed to prevent the unregulated and illicit flow of weapons into conflict zones and fueling wars and atrocities.

The U.N. General Assembly voted in December to restart negotiations in mid-March on what could become the first international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade after a drafting conference in July collapsed because the United States and other nations wanted more time.

"The United States, as the world's leading arms supplier, has a special responsibility to provide the leadership needed for an ATT (arms trade treaty) with the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition," the groups wrote to Obama in a letter delivered late on Friday.

"The Arms Trade Treaty can provide a key tool to help reduce enormous human suffering caused by irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering," the letter said.

The 36 groups that co-authored the letter include Amnesty International USA, Arms Control Association, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Oxfam America, National Association of Evangelicals and other groups.

The point of the treaty is to set standards for all cross-border transfers of any type of conventional weapon - light and heavy. It also would set binding requirements for nations to review all cross-border arms contracts to ensure the munitions will not be used in human rights abuses, do not violate embargoes and are not illegally diverted.

Deputy U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed the White House had received the letter, saying it "raises a number of important issues." She said Washington would support a treaty under certain conditions.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a toast during the 2013 Governors' Dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington February 24, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts