Vatican calls for curb on arms trade

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The Independent Online
ROME (Reuter) - The Vatican yesterday said governments should impose strict controls on handguns and other small arms and called for an international agreement to regulate the trade in conventional weapons.

In a document called The International Arms Trade - an Ethical Reflection the Vatican also said the sale of weapons for legitimate defence was permissible but lamented that in some developing countries military budgets had become a matter of prestige which had exceeded social spending.

'Never before has our earth known so many armed conflicts, fed by a proliferation of arms which is often simply taken for granted,' said the Vatican's Justice and Peace Council.

'Sowing arms to the four winds could well result in reaping the whirlwind of war on one's own soil,' says the document.

The problem of the arms trade had reached 'a new urgency' because some countries and many arms merchants were driven exclusively by profit instead of moral principles.

The document, which took nearly eight years to write, calls for a conversion of the weapons industry to non-military purposes where possible.