U.S. opposes arms trade treaty

Baum is a Times staff writer.

The United States and Zimbabwe united briefly Friday against the world to oppose creating a treaty that would control international sales of arms.

In a United Nations General Assembly vote, 147 of its 192 members voted in favor of creating a global treaty that would impose rules on the import, export and transfer of weapons among nations. Only the U.S., long an opponent of such a treaty, and Zimbabwe voted against the idea. Arms exporters such as China, Russia and Israel showed their reluctance over the regulations by abstaining; other nations were absent.

The resolution is intended to lead to a treaty that by creating strict regulations on international arms sales would prevent weapons getting into the hands of criminals and terrorists. Supporters of the resolution expect that it will take at least five years before treaty language is finalized and presented to the U.N. body.


British U.N. Ambassador John Sawers described the pairing of the United States and Zimbabwe against the vote as “a rather curious combination.” The U.S. has condemned Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his policies toward opposition groups and attempted unsuccessfully to get the Security Council to impose sanctions on him.

U.S. diplomat Christina Rocca said the U.S. was eager to find ways to stop the illegal arms trade, but that the mechanism of a treaty was not the way to “accomplish that goal.”

Britain, which exports about $3 billion in arms annually, was among the nations leading the effort to create the arms trade treaty. Sawers told reporters that he was looking forward to the election of a new U.S. president who might “see the benefits” of an international treaty controlling arms sales and reverse President Bush’s policy on the issue.

“The only impact it will have would be to bear down on the irresponsible and illegal transfer and export of weapons,” Sawers said.