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Global Arms Trade Continues to Grow

A new U.S. Congressional report finds the global arms trade grew again last year, with the United States by far the biggest supplier. Most of those American-made weapons are going to developing countries.

The annual survey by the Congressional Research Service says worldwide arms sales rose in 2000 to almost $37 billion. This is up about $3 billion from 1999. It marks the third increase in a row, though sales are still below the peak levels reached in the early 1990s after the Gulf War.

American arms-makers racked up almost half the total sales, signing contracts for $18.6 billion worth of weapons. Russia was the second-biggest arms merchant with $7.7 billion in contracts, followed by France with just over $4 billion.

U.S. sales also account for 50 percent of deals with developing nations, which make up the bulk of the world arms market. Those U.S. sales jumped to $12.6 billion, almost $4 billion higher than in 1999. Over two-thirds of all American weapons sold during the year went to the developing world.

The United Arab Emirates became the biggest developing country buyer last year by signing a major deal for U.S. built F-16 fighters. India was next in purchases, with South Korea ranked third.

The report, though nonpartisan, could fuel both sides in the debate over national security and foreign weapons sales. Arms control and human rights advocates may accuse the U.S. government of hypocrisy for urging peace in troubled regions while allowing so many arms deals. But the study also traces Russia's weapons trade with Iran, a source of concern for the Bush administration and Republicans in general.

The report found Moscow delivered some $800 million worth of weapons to Iran from 1997 through 2000. It says Russia would also pursue major arms deals with Iraq, if the United Nations lifts the ban on such sales.