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33 Countries Agree to Control Light Weapons - 2003-12-12

Thirty three nations have agreed on a code of conduct, aimed at controlling international trafficking in light weapons. The agreement was reached at a two-day meeting of signatories to the so-called Wassenaar agreement on international security.

The Wassenaar Arrangement was signed near The Hague in 1996 to promote international security and transparency in the transfer of conventional arms and technology that could be used for peaceful or military purposes.

This year, the plenary session agreed on a code of conduct to report on exports, and curtail the illegal dealing around the world in light weapons, such as Kalashnikov rifles, that have become a favorite weapon of numerous terrorist organizations.

Among signatories to the agreement are the United States, Russia and most European countries.

The Wassenaar states also reached an agreement aimed at tighter controls over portable missile launchers, sometimes known as man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS.

These weapons have been employed by terrorist groups to target commercial aircraft. They were used against a Kenyan airliner and, more recently, against aircraft flying out of Baghdad.

Kenneth Brill, head of the U.S. mission and chairman of the session, told a news conference that the meeting had produced results on the control of conventional weapons that could help in the fight against international terrorism.

"These are all the kinds of items that are very practical and relevant in a day-to-day sense, because it is conventional weapons that kill people," he said. "The participating states in the Wassenaar Arrangement share a common belief in the importance of ensuring that they act responsibly in making decisions on transfers of conventional arms and dual-use technology. And, this year, the plenary has achieved some of the most significant progress since the Wassenaar Arrangement was founded in 1996."

The delegates voted for Argentina to chair the next meeting of the Wassenaar nations, at the end of next year in the Austrian capital.