U.N. approves first-ever global arms trade treaty
UNITED NATIONS — The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday the first-ever treaty on global arms trade that seeks to regulate the $70 billion international business in conventional arms ranging from light weapons to battle tanks and warships.
There were 154 votes in favor, 3 against and 23 abstentions.
Iran, Syria and North Korea last week prevented a treaty-drafting conference at U.N. headquarters from reaching the required consensus to adopt the treaty. That left delegations that support it no choice but to turn to a General Assembly vote to adopt it.
The treaty will be open for signature June 3 and will enter into force 90 days after the 50th signatory ratifies it.
Major arms producers China and Russia joined Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other countries in abstaining. A number of countries complained that the treaty favors exporting over importing states.
The United States, the world's No. 1 arms exporter, said last week it would vote in favor of the treaty despite opposition from the National Rifle Association, a powerful U.S. pro-gun lobbying group.
The NRA opposes the treaty and has vowed to fight to prevent its ratification by the U.S. Senate when it reaches Washington. The NRA says the treaty would undermine domestic gun-ownership rights, a view the U.S. government rejects.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari repeated that his government opposes the arms trade treaty because it does not ban the sale of weapons to non-state actors and "terrorists" like the ones active in Syria, where a two-year-old civil war has claimed at least 70,000 lives, according to U.N. estimates.
Syria routinely refers to rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad as "terrorists" supported by foreign governments.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Philip Barbara)