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Kerry Voices U.S. Support for NRA-opposed U.N. Arms Treaty

Friday, 15 March 2013 05:18 PM

UNITED NATIONS - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced his support on Friday for an international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade, but restated Washington's "red line" that it will not accept limits on U.S. domestic gun ownership.

The U.N. General Assembly voted in December to hold a final round of negotiations from March 18 to 28 on what could become the first international treaty to regulate international weapons transfers after a drafting conference in July 2012 collapsed because the United States and others wanted more time.

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 United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability," Kerry said in a statement.

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"An effective treaty that recognizes that each nation must tailor and enforce its own national export and import control mechanisms can generate the participation of a broad majority of states, help stem the illicit flow of conventional arms across international borders and have important humanitarian benefits."

But he repeated that the United States - the world's No. 1 arms manufacturer - would not accept any treaty that imposed new limits on U.S. citizens' right to bear arms, a sensitive political issue in the United States.

"We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment," he said.

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.



The leading U.S. pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association, has vowed to fight against the treaty, dismissing suggestions that a December U.S. school shooting massacre in Connecticut bolstered the case for such a pact.

If a treaty is approved in New York, it will require ratification by countries' legislatures before it goes into effect. The NRA has warned the arms trade treaty would undermine the right to bear arms and says it will fight hard to prevent ratification if the Obama administration supports the treaty.

Backers of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the U.S. public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on domestic gun ownership and would apply only to exports.

Some 150 countries will participate in the negotiations that begin on Monday at U.N. headquarters.

Gun control advocates welcomed Kerry's statement.

"While the U.S. government reaffirms its red line on the Second Amendment, it did not issue any new red lines or demands on the international community," said Frank Jannuzi of Amnesty International. "We hope that this means that they will lead the next round (of negotiations) to consensus."

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, said Kerry's remarks were a "long overdue positive statement that makes it clear the administration is dedicated to pursuing a robust treaty."

Jannuzi said the fact that the statement was issued on a Friday afternoon - a time when U.S. media interest is often at its lowest point of the week - showed that the arms treaty "is not an issue that they see as a political advantage."

He added that it was positive Kerry did not raise the issue of ammunition, something the United States has previously demanded be excluded from the treaty. Supporters of a tough treaty in Europe and elsewhere insist on including ammunition.

Last month deputy U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Washington would continue to oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the draft treaty.

"Ammunition is a fundamentally different commodity than conventional arms," Hayden said. "It is fungible, consumable, reloadable, and cannot be marked in any practical way that would permit it to be tracked or traced."

A U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity on Friday that the U.S. position on ammunition has not changed.

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Secretary of State John Kerry voiced his support for an international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade, but restated Washington's red line that it will not accept limits on U.S. domestic gun ownership.
Friday, 15 March 2013 05:18 PM
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