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Rights Group Says Arms Transport Needs Regulation

States are failing to control the transport of weapons around the world, says a new report from London-based watchdog Amnesty International.

"We are drawing attention to the fact that transport service providers like air transport countries, shipping countries, and their agents and brokers are not properly regulated when they are transporting cargos of conventional arms around the world," said Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager at Amnesty International.

He says transport companies registered in China, France, the Russian Federation, Britain and the United States move weapons to countries where they could be used to commit human-rights violations.

The United Nations, he says, needs to do more to regulate 'intermediaries' in the arms trade. He says some countries have tough export-bans on arms, but the transport industry is not well enough regulated to enforce the rules.

For example, Britain and Germany have banned the transfer of cluster munitions, but ships registered in Britain have shipped cluster munitions to Pakistan from South Korea.

And he says machine-gun and anti-aircraft-gun parts have been transported to Rwanda, where there was a risk that the weapons would be used in fighting in neighboring Congo.

"These kinds of machine guns have been used by the armed group that is allied to Rwanda as well as allegedly by the Rwandan army in eastern Congo," said Wood. "So basically, Bulgaria, France, and Kenya should not have allowed those cargos to go through at that time."

Amnesty launched this report as delegates are at U.N. headquarters in New York to negotiate an international treaty to control the arms trade. Wood says the treaty will be historic.

"This is the first time that there would be a global treaty to govern the transfers of conventional arms around the world," he said. "So this is potentially a win-win situation for everyone, but the diplomats do have to knuckle down and, you know, the devil will be in the detail."

The Control Arms Campaign, a coalition of civil society groups including Amnesty International, says 128 armed conflicts since 1989 have claimed about 250,000 deaths each year.