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Iran, NKorea try to block arms trade treaty

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran and North Korea tried to block adoption of a U.N. treaty that would regulate the multibillion-dollar international arms trade Thursday but the chair suspended the meeting in an apparent effort to try and get them to back down.

To be approved, the draft treaty needs support from all 193 U.N. member states.

Australian Ambassador Peter Woolcott, the meeting chair, called the suspension after Iran and North Korea raised their nameplates signifying their refusal to join consensus. Earlier, they gave speeches outlining their objections to the treaty.

Supporters of the treaty said before the meeting that if it was not adopted they would go to the General Assembly and put the draft treaty to a vote, which they predicted would receive overwhelming approval.

Hopes of reaching agreement on what would be a landmark treaty were dashed last July when the U.S. said it needed more time to consider the proposed accord — a move quickly backed by Russia and China. In December, the U.N. General Assembly decided to hold a final conference and set Thursday as the deadline.

U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private, said Wednesday the United States was virtually certain to go along with the latest text.

There has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.

Ahead of the vote optimism had been growing that the long-debated treaty would become a reality, but there were concerns that Iran, India, Egypt or others would object.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari voiced objections to provisions in the draft treaty but did not join Iran and North Korea in trying to block consensus.

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said the draft treaty has major loopholes, is “hugely susceptible to politicization and discrimination,” and ignores the “legitimate demand” to prohibit the transfer of arms to those who commit aggression.

“How can we reduce human suffering by turning a blind eye to aggression that costs the lives of hundreds of thousands of people?” he asked.

Anna Macdonald, head of arms control at Oxfam, one of about 100 organizations worldwide in the Control Arms coalition, which has been campaigning for a strong treaty said earlier Thursday that “there have been concerns that Iran might block” agreement, but she cited an Iranian television station reporting “that Iran is going to support it.”

The draft treaty would not control the domestic use of weapons in any country, but it would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms, parts and components and to regulate arms brokers. It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

The final draft made this human rights provision even stronger, adding that the export of conventional arms should be prohibited if they could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.

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