Nations line up to sign U.N. arms trade treaty, U.S. not yet

Mon Jun 3, 2013 4:36pm EDT
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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Delegates from dozens of countries gathered in New York on Monday and signed the first treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade, but the United States was not among them.

On April 2, the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that aims to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers and criminals.

Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, was the first to put pen to paper when the signing ceremony opened at U.N. headquarters on Monday. There was a large round of applause after he affixed his signature to the document.

The United Nations said 62 countries from Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa signed the treaty in the morning. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was due to sign shortly, making Germany the 63rd nation to join the pact.

U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane told reporters that several more states would likely be signing in the coming days, taking the initial tally to roughly 66.

The United States, the world's No. 1 arms exporter, will sign the treaty as soon as all the official U.N. translations of the document are completed, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

"The signing of the Arms Trade Treaty gives hope to the millions affected by armed violence every day," said Anna Macdonald of the humanitarian group Oxfam. "The devastating humanitarian consequences of the ... conflict in Syria underline just how urgently regulation of the arms trade is needed."

"Gunrunners and dictators have been sent a clear message that their time of easy access to weapons is up," she added. "For generations the arms trade has been shrouded in secrecy but from now on it will be open to scrutiny."   Continued...

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle speaks during a news conference in New York, June 3, 2013. Germany and Mexico are expected to sign the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty Monday at U.N. headquarters in New York. REUTERS/Mike Segar