World leaders, politicians call for limits on small armsBy EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (February 29, 2000) - Prominent figures from twenty nations called Tuesday for a global agreement to curtail the supply of small arms, which they blame for the vast majority of deaths in war.
Under their proposal, governments would be required to declare their production, stockpiles and transfers of handguns, rifles and machine guns in a new U.N. Register on Small Arms - and to mark all small arms and make a commitment not to export or import any that are unmarked.
The proposal also calls for an international code of conduct that would set clear standards on eligibility for arms sales and existing export controls to be strengthened and enforced.
"Small arms kill most people in most wars," former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard told a news conference. "Yet, the international trade in small arms remains largely unregulated."
He said small arms - including assault rifles, machine guns, and pistols - are responsible for 90 percent of the 200,000 people killed every year in wars. And he said the majority of the casualties are civilians.
Rocard presented the recommendations of the 20-member group that includes the presidents of Georgia and Mali, former Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Organization of African Unity Secretary General Salim A. Salim, and top officials from Brazil, Cameroon, Britain and Russia.
The United Nations is holding an international conference on small arms in June 2001, and Rocard said the group hopes that its proposals will be discussed, analyzed, and hopefully adopted by participants.
"Measures must be devised to limit the access to small arms, to curtail the supply of small arms, and to reduce the demand for small arms," Rocard said. "The weapons of violence must be brought back into the control of public authority - the state - with the state itself being made accountable for its deeds."
He said that marking the weapons will make it possible to track them, and to hold governments accountable.
The ultimate goal of the group is to require all countries to participate in an international program to control small arms - and to ban all small arms trading with countries that don't participate, he said.
Participants said the group was first proposing a voluntary arms control regime because there didn't appear to be support at this time for a binding treaty.
Rocard stressed that the 20 world figures were not calling for a ban on legitimate small arms use by the military, law enforcement officers, hunters and collectors.