British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said Sept. 30 that the United Kingdom would work to build support lor a treaty on the international arms trade, although he provided few details about what London envisioned.
Speaking at the annual conference of London's ruling Labour Party, Straw appeared to be making a case for an accord focused on small arms, such as rifles, machine guns, and mortars. Hc noted that these types of arms, not "sophisticated high tech weapons," are behind the "carnage and the terror" being perpetrated in the Darfur region of Sudan, where government forces have joined with Arab militias to attack and displace hundreds of thousands of black Africans. "Greater international action is therefore needed to tackle the plague of small arms in Africa and elsewhere," Straw declared.
Straw referenced a 1998 European Union arms sales code of conduct in his speech, suggesting this could be one possible model for a future treaty. Under the IiU code, participating countries are supposed to weigh their proposed arms deals against a set of eight criteria, such as an importing government's human rights record, before agreeing to an export. The criteria are not legally binding, however, and a government is free to pursue whatever deals it ultimately desires. (see ACT, May 1998. …