US set to slash export of arms in Senate vote

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The Independent Online
The United States Senate was last night due to vote on imposing a Code of Conduct banning arms exports to dictatorial and aggressive regimes, similar to that proposed for the European Union. The US and the EU - which between them account for the vast majority of world arms exports - are now on course, for the first time, to restrain 80 per cent of the world arms trade.

But if the code is passed bythe Senate, it will become binding - placing the US ahead of the EU which, although it has guidelines, has no legislation.

On 16 July a group of European Parliament members, led by Glenys Kinnock, wrote to Senator Mark Hatfield, a Republican and the main sponsor of the code of conduct, stressing the need for the US and the EU to impose similar controls.

The proposed US code precludes arms exports to countries which are undemocratic, do not respect human rights, are engaged in armed aggression, and do not participate fully in the new United Nations register of conventional arms.

"Irresponsible arms exports boomerang back on the US," said Senator Hatfield. "In the last four US foreign engagements - Iraq, Somalia, Panama and Haiti - American troops have faced weapons supplied by American manufacturers."

Although EU member states agreed in 1991 and 1992 the eight criteria which should govern arms exports, there is as yet no common European arms export policy. The Euro-MPswant a "coherent and comprehensive arms export policy" agreed and incorporated in the EU's statutes at the Inter- Governmental Conference.

The proposed US code puts the burden of proof on the recipient country. The EU guidelines place the burden of proof differently, and countries interpret the EU guidelines in different ways. For example, the UK and Germany export arms to Indonesia - including Hawk jets reportedly used against rebels in East Timor. Italy and Portugal do not, because of Jakarta's poor human rights record.