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Switzerland disappointed at UN small arms accord

The United Nations says that up to 60 per cent of small arms in the world are illegally held Keystone

Round-the-clock negotiations at a United Nations conference on small arms have concluded with an agreement to combat global firearms trafficking. But the accord falls far short of what several countries, including Switzerland and France, had hoped for.

This content was published on July 22, 2001 - 12:38

The head of the Swiss delegation attending the conference, Raimund Kunz, said the accord brokered on the final day of meetings fails to address the "main problems concerning small arms".

"I regret that the accord contains so little that is concrete," Kunz said at the end of the meeting.

"We would have liked to see a much more wide-ranging agreement, particularly regarding the issue of arms exportation," he added.

At the beginning of the ten-day conference, which took place in New York, the Swiss and French delegations presented a joint initiative to set up a globally acceptable mechanism for marking and registering all small arms.

But the two countries were forced to abandon the plans after the United States refused to sign up to the initiative.

"It would seem that the time was not right for such an initiative," concluded Kunz.

As the conference wound up on Saturday, delegates were also forced to drop one of the most contentious clauses in a draft global agreement, relating to the restriction of civilian possession of small arms.

Washington had earlier said it would not sign up to any agreement which included such a clause.

The president of the conference, Camillo Reyes, expressed his satisfaction that both governmental and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had reached an agreement, though he admitted the text of the accord fell short of initial expectations.

"Obviously, we could have obtained a better document, no doubt," Reyes said at the closing day of the conference, "but I think we have made a good start in eradicating the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons."

A follow-up conference to discuss progress made over the next five years in curbing the trafficking of arms is scheduled to take place by 2006.

According to UN estimates, between 40 and 60 per cent of the more than 500 million small arms and light weapons in the world are illegal.

swissinfo with agencies

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