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Security Council appeals to weapons exporters to be responsible in small arms deals

17 February 2005 Stressing its primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, the United Nations Security Council today appealed to the arms-exporting countries "to exercise the highest responsibility in small arms and light weapons transactions" in accordance with international law.

In a statement read after the 15 Council members and more than 20 other UN Member States debated a report from the Secretary-General on the weapons, the Council also called for international cooperation "in identifying the origin and transfer of small arms and light weapons in order to prevent their diversion, in particular, to Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups."

"The Security Council recognizes that the dissemination of illicit small arms and light weapons has hampered the peaceful settlement of disputes, fuelled such disputes into armed conflicts and contributed to the prolongation of such armed conflicts," said the statement read by Ambassador Joel W. Adechi of Benin, which holds the rotating presidency for the month of February.

In that regard, the Council encouraged States to undertake vigorous actions aimed at restricting the supply of small arms, light weapons and ammunition to areas of instability.

It supported once again the decision by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to strengthen its 1998 "moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms and light weapons, and to replace it with a mandatory convention."

The Security Council welcomed the European Council's decision last December to support this initiative significantly and it urged States and organizations also to assist ECOWAS in its endeavour.

In post-conflict situations, the Council stressed the importance of a comprehensive international and regional approach to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants that was not restricted to the political and security aspects, but also addressed its social and economic impacts, including providing for the special needs of child soldiers and women.

At the outset of the Council session Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuyasu Abe said cooperation among States in observing weapons sanctions and tracing the movement of small arms had improved, but more needed to be done to establish the links between illicit weapons and natural resources contraband.

Presenting the Secretary-General's report on small arms and light weapons to the Council, Mr. Abe said the report gave an overview of the ways in which the 15-member body was dealing with the question of illicit trade in these weapons.

"The increasingly vigorous actions recently taken by the Security Council with respect to the implementation of sanctions and arms embargoes are particularly encouraging," he said.

An important development was establishing monitoring mechanisms, assessing sanctions implementation and providing technical advice to the Council's sanctions committees, he said. Equally noteworthy was the Council's adoption of measures to punish sanctions violators and their supporters.

The Council's increased attention to the specific needs of women and children in post-conflict disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants was commendable as thousands of children were demobilized in Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Haiti, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Mr. Abe said.

On the other hand, more needed to be done in some areas, such as establishing "the links between illicit small arms and light weapons and the illicit exploitation of natural and other resources," giving greater support for the reintegration of former combatants into their communities, supporting the establishment of the Small Arms Advisory Service and encouraging more interaction between the Council and the General Assembly on these matters, he said.

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