- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

'Impeding' gun control

Former French Premier Michel Rocard is complaining that greed and politics in the United States and other nations that produce light weapons are undermining efforts to control the illegal trade in small arms.

In a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Mr. Rocard said, "Parochial political, economic and security interests of a few supplier states are impeding, if not derailing, the process."

Mr. Rocard and Mali President Alpha Oumar Konare are the co-chairmen of the U.N.-supported Eminent Persons Group of 20 current and former world leaders seeking to limit the flow of weapons such as AK-47 assault rifles that often fall into the hands of terrorists, guerrillas, drug smugglers and criminal gangs.

Among other measures, they have proposed that all countries support an international registry of the legal sale of those weapons and methods to trace them when they are sold illegally.

However, the United States, Russia, China, India and Israel object to such tight controls on the legal weapons trade.

In his letter to Mrs. Albright last week, Mr. Rocard argued that controls on the legal sales are necessary to deal with the illegal sales.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has reported on the "leakage from legal to illicit sources as a major supply source" for illegally armed groups, Mr. Rocard said.

He added that Mr. Annan is calling for a "comprehensive approach to both the licit trade and illicit traffic."

"Effort by some [nations] to limit small-arms control to illicit commercial activity must be shown as an attempt to avoid [national] responsibility and to sidestep the process," Mr. Rocard said.

"There is a growing recognition of ever-expanding small-arms proliferation as one of the great humanitarian challenges of our time," he added. "For these are the weapons that kill most people in most wars, primarily in developing countries.

"Most of the victims of small arms violence are children. Yet the international small-arms trade remains largely unregulated."

Warnings to Americans

The warnings to Americans living in the Middle East apply to all U.S. citizens there, regardless of whether they are Arab, Jew or other, as far as the State Department is concerned.

Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington does not distinguish among the estimated 100,000 U.S. citizens in Israel, which include roughly 60,000 Jewish-Americans and 30,000 Palestinian-Americans.

Mr. Boucher, in response to a reporter's question last week, said:

"What we've issued is the cautions that we've issued so far. We stand by those.

"Those apply to all Americans. We don't, frankly, differentiate between different ones.

"Americans are Americans are Americans."

Mr. Boucher said even if the department had different advice for Americans of different ethnic background, "we'd give it to everybody."

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi discusses the violence in the Middle East with invited guests of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, the Foundation for Middle East Peace and the Middle East Institute.

Wednesday

• Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who holds a 1 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club.

Thursday

• J.C. Malewezi, vice president of Malawi, who attends a diplomatic reception to initiate the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Free Trade Area.

Friday

• Rafael Hernandez, editor of Temas, Cuba's leading nonfiction journal. He participates in a forum on Cuba with invited guests at the Council on Foreign Relations.

• Theresa Zabell, a member of the European Parliament and a Spanish Olympic gold medal winner in sailing. She holds a 9 a.m. news conference on the National Press Club to discuss illegal drugs in sports.

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