- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

NEW YORK — Delegates to a U.N. conference on small arms fell in line behind U.S. demands yesterday, saying they would rather have a weak agreement that the United States could support than risk confrontation with the world's largest arms producer.
"It is important that the conference be inclusive, and that we remember this problem is a long-term process," said Raimund Kunz, who heads the Swiss delegation.
"What is important is that the action plan is implemented," he said, acknowledging that every country, including his own, has legitimate interests to protect.
Delegates from 120 nations will spend the next 10 days negotiating a program to curb the flow of revolvers, submachine guns, anti-tank missiles and other small weapons into conflict zones around the world.
But coming up with a single document that is strong enough to do the job, but painless enough to win universal support, will be difficult.
The European Union, Japan, Mozambique and other nations have been advocating strong controls that would restrict the manufacture, civilian possession and international transfer of weapons.
Major arms manufacturers, including the United States, Russia and China, have been advocating strong export controls, but will brook no interference in domestic laws.
On Monday, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told the U.N. conference that the United States will not sign any document that includes any curbs on civilian gun ownership or restrictions on sales to known insurgent groups.
Many diplomats yesterday indicated that a weaker document with broad consensus was more valuable than one ignored by pivotal countries, such as the United States.
"I think a consensus is possible, compromises are being made by everyone," said Jayantha Dhanapala, the undersecretary- general of disarmament affairs, whose department organized the conference.
He said that when the declaration is finished, it is sure to include commitments to marking and tracing weapons, some restrictions on the activities of brokers, and a system of sharing information on arms exports.
"That in itself is a major step forward," Mr. Dhanapala said.
This is the first time governments have tried to set out goals and actions to limit the spread of illicit guns, an estimated $1 billion-a-year trade that contributes to destabilization and destruction around the world.
Unlike a small-arms treaty negotiated last year in Vienna, Austria, this program of action is neither binding nor enforceable.
Organizers have stressed they do not seek to take from civilians firearms legally acquired under national law. However, the conference has generated strong opposition from American gun enthusiasts concerned about their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Mr. Bolton outlined the limits of what Washington can accept in language that was unusually direct for the United Nations.
Delegates and advocacy groups attending the conference were aware of the U.S. "red lines," as they are known in diplomatic jargon, but many said they were jarred to hear them so plainly enumerated.
"What a cowboy," said an Asian envoy.
Mr. Bolton shrugged off the criticism.
"I think clarity is a good thing," he told reporters after his Monday remarks.

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