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Small arms forum to focus on illegal trade, not domestic gun control: UN official

Small arms forum to focus on illegal trade, not domestic gun control: UN official

Jayantha Dhanapala
An upcoming United Nations conference on small arms and light weapons will provide the international community with a chance to take concrete steps in response to a multifaceted global crisis, the senior UN disarmament official said today.

At a press briefing in New York, Jayantha Dhanapala, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, said the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons and all Its Aspects, to be held in New York from 9 to 20 July, would offer the UN the opportunity to "demonstrate practical action on this very important issue."

Mr. Dhanapala also sought to correct misconceptions about the Conference which had been expressed in communications to the UN mainly from gun advocates in the host country. "Fundamentally, the Conference that we will hold next week is looking at the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in an international context, which has helped to exacerbate conflict," he said. "We are not looking at the question of domestic gun control as far as crime prevention is concerned, and the legal ownership of guns is not being interfered with."

Marking and tracing small arms and light weapons will be one of the issues expected to dominate the discussions, along with brokering activities, export controls, links between the licit and illicit trade, civilian possession of small arms and light weapons, and the transfer of those arms to non-State actors, said Mr. Dhanapala. He expressed confidence that compromises would be reached "so that we will have a successful adoption of a programme of action at the end of the Conference."

"I am confident that what will emerge finally as a programme of action will be sufficiently strong as to embody a number of effective measures for the control of this problem," he said, noting that the Conference - the first held by the UN on the small arms issue - is "the beginning of a process."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was asked about the Conference as he arrived this morning at UN Headquarters, said its "main goal is going to be to try and ensure that we control illicit arms trade, to ensure that guns do not get into the wrong hands." He noted that the history of the last 20 years or so showed that most of the killing in the world, apart from the AIDS epidemic, was being done by small arms. "These arms are doing incredible damage in cities, in war-torn areas, and I hope we can get the manufacturers and governments to work with us in controlling the flow of these illicit arms," Mr. Annan said