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U.N. approves arms trade pact

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 9:22 PM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013
U.N. General Assembly delegate applaud the passage of the first U.N. treaty regulating the international arms trade on Tuesday.
U.N. General Assembly delegate applaud the passage of the first U.N. treaty regulating the international arms trade on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Arms Trade Treaty will regulate transfers of heavy weapons and small arms
  • Iran, Syria and North Korea voted against the treaty at the United Nations
  • The United States and European Union praise the treaty; the NRA opposes it

(CNN) -- The U.N. General Assembly voted to adopt the world body's first treaty to regulate the global arms trade Tuesday, a move Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called "a victory for the world's people."

The Arms Trade Treaty will regulate the transfers of tanks, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, missiles, warships and small arms. Ban said the pact will make it harder for weapons to reach black markets and fall into the hands of "warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and their like."

"It will be a powerful new tool in our efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law," he said in a statement on the 154-3 vote. "And it will provide much-needed momentum for other global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts."

Iran, Syria and North Korea were the only votes against the treaty, which will take effect when 50 member states ratify it.

"The international community can claim full ownership of this treaty, which will make trade in conventional arms more responsible and transparent, thus reducing human suffering and tangibly contributing to international peace, security and stability," Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said in a written statement.

And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the pact "can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade."

The National Rifle Association, the American gun lobby, has vowed to oppose the treaty's ratification in the U.S. Senate. The NRA says the treaty is "designed to severely restrict or even outright ban the right to sell, purchase, carry or own a firearm in America."

Senators voted 53-46 to attach an anti-treaty amendment authored by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, to the chamber's budget resolution for 2014. But Kerry said the treaty "applies only to international trade, and reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate arms within its territory."

"As the United States has required from the outset of these negotiations, nothing in this treaty could ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment," he said.

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