May 31, 2006

U.N., Swiss Call Small-Arms Meeting, U.S. Not Invited

The United Nations and the Swiss government said on May 31 they were calling a high-level international meeting next week on armed violence and development -- but the United States was not invited.

The gathering of ministers and senior representatives from some 48 countries aims to launch a world-wide effort to cut the gun crime and conflict hitting the economies of poorer nations, U.N. and Swiss officials told a news conference.

"Where armed violence persists, human development suffers," said a statement on the meeting, to be held in Geneva on June 7. It is due to issue a declaration committing signatory governments to concrete actions on reducing gun use.

Swiss Foreign Ministry envoy Thomas Greminger said the gathering would follow up on the U.N. General Assembly adoption last December of an international agreement on marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons.

"But in order to establish clearly on the international agenda the link between security and development, it needs the strong political will of a community of states," he said.

The aim would be to tackle the control and perhaps collection of light weapons that have been left in a community after a larger conflict, as well as dealing with the social conditions that drive people to acquire guns.

Peter Bachelor of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) said the Geneva meeting would build on a decision by the 31-member OECD rich-country grouping last year that overseas development aid could be used for violence prevention.

But the United States -- which has backed U.N. efforts to control the global trade in illicit weaponry but had stood aloof from other recent arms control pacts including one on land mines -- was not on the list of invitees, he told the news conference.

Invitations had gone out, he said, "to all those countries very committed to addressing this issue."

"But," he added, "I think ultimately that is why the United States is not invited -- it has to be countries that have shown a commitment on these issues ... We want to create this dynamic core group that can take this issue forward."

Neither Swiss nor U.N. officials could immediately provide a full list of countries invited or attending.


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