- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

MEXICO CITY | Meeting face-to-face with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Obama on Thursday said the U.S. is to blame for much of Mexico’s drug violence, and he set up a major congressional gun-control battle by calling on the Senate to ratify a treaty designed to track and cut the flow of guns to other countries.

Mr. Obama said he wants to renew a ban on some semiautomatic weapons but that it is not likely to pass Congress. Instead, he called for the Senate to ratify a decade-old hemispherewide treaty that would require nations to mark all weapons produced in the country and track them to make sure no weapons were exported to countries where they were banned.

“I will not pretend that this is Mexico’s responsibility alone. The demand for these drugs in the United States is what’s helping keep these cartels in business,” Mr. Obama said at a joint news conference with Mr. Calderon. “This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.”

But the treaty is likely to run into opposition from gun rights backers, and the Senate’s top Democrat was noncommittal Thursday about the measure.

Mr. Calderon urged the U.S. to consider a gun registry and a prohibition on bulk sales of firearms.

On other issues, Mr. Calderon pushed Mr. Obama to develop an immigration policy that would legalize illegal Mexican immigrants and establish a future flow of workers. The Mexican president also said he had presented Mr. Obama with proposals for a bilateral carbon-dioxide emissions trading scheme to combat climate change, and with a plan for infrastructure projects on the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to boost jobs and cooperation.

The two also found areas of disagreement. On Cuba, Mexico would like the U.S. to lift its trade embargo entirely while Mr. Obama has taken an incremental approach. They also disagreed on a program allowing some Mexican trucks to operate far into the U.S.

Mexico says it is entitled to operate trucks in the U.S. under a free-trade agreement, but Congress and Mr. Obama ended the program earlier this year.

Mr. Obama is making a one-day visit to Mexico before flying Friday to Trinidad, where he will attend the Summit of the Americas with leaders of 33 other Western Hemisphere nations.

In taking responsibility for some of the causes of Mexico’s drug violence, Mr. Obama was following through on signals from top administration officials. Mexico wants the U.S. to provide money and equipment such as military helicopters, and to impose tougher restrictions on guns.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said he wanted to renew the 1994 ban on some semiautomatic weapons, which expired in 2004. But he told his Mexican hosts that it’s not likely to pass Congress, saying instead that the U.S. should do what it can under existing laws, and go a step further by ratifying the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

President Clinton signed CIFTA in 1997, but it has never been ratified.

Mr. Obama said the treaty would “curb small-arms trafficking that is a source of so many of the weapons used in this drug war.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said he supports Mr. Obama’s ratification push and will work to get it through the Senate.

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