The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the first-ever treaty on global arms trade that seeks to regulate the 70 billion dollars international business in conventional arms ranging from light weapons to battle tanks and warships.
There were 154 votes in favour, 3 against and 23 abstentions.
Iran, Syria and North Korea last week prevented a treaty-drafting conference at UN headquarters from reaching the required consensus to adopt the treaty. That left delegations that support it no choice but to turn to a General Assembly vote to adopt it.
The Iranian, Syrian and North Korean delegations cast the sole votes against the treaty on Tuesday.
Iran, which is under a UN arms embargo over its nuclear program, is eager to ensure its arms imports and exports are not curtailed, diplomats said. Syria's government is embroiled in a two-year civil war and relies on Russian and Iranian weapons, they added.
North Korea is also under a UN arms embargo due to its nuclear weapons and missile programs. The treaty will be open for signature on June 3 and will enter into force 90 days after the 50th signatory ratifies it.
Major arms producers China and Russia joined Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other countries in abstaining. A number of countries, led by India, which also abstained, complained the treaty favoured exporting over importing states.
The United States, the world's No. 1 arms exporter, voted in favour of the treaty despite fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association, a powerful US pro-gun lobbying group.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the U.N. adopted ”a strong, effective and implementable Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade.
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 added, referring to the U.S. constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms.
The NRA opposes the treaty and has vowed to fight to prevent its ratification by the U.S. Senate when it reaches Washington. The NRA says the treaty will undermine domestic gun rights, a view the U.S. government has strongly rejected
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