Straw seeks to put arms trade at top of G8 agenda

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The Independent Online

Jack Straw will mark "Make Poverty History" Day today with a promise that Britain is taking the lead in cutting down the sale of lethal weapons to some of the world's poorest countries.

Jack Straw will mark "Make Poverty History" Day today with a promise that Britain is taking the lead in cutting down the sale of lethal weapons to some of the world's poorest countries.

The Foreign Secretary has been working behind the scenes to get an international arms trade treaty on to the agenda when the world's richest nations hold their summit in London this summer.

Canada has already agreed to back the treaty, and it is understood that Mr Straw has reached unpublicised agreements with other G8 governments.

"The causes of poverty are many, but no one can doubt that in Africa, conflict and war have been major causes," Mr Straw is expected to say in a speech this afternoon.

"In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, upwards of three million people are estimated to have been killed over the past six years. A million illegal small arms are calculated to be in circulation.

"From Sierra Leone to Sudan, the modern world that too many children experience is dominated by Kalashnikovs. An unregulated arms trade has further impoverished many of the world's poorest countries."

A line in Labour's election manifesto promises to "work actively to secure an international treaty on the arms trade." According to Mr Straw, that makes Labour the first major political party in any of the wealthiest nations to commit itself to an arms treaty as an election commitment.

In his speech, he will attack the Conservatives for supplying arms to dictatorships while they were in power.

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