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After Indonesian Informals, US Opposes Ammo in ATT, Loophole in Tier?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- A week before the end of the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, the mood was surprisingly and perhaps unrealistically upbeat.

  Thursday evening negotiators filed by the Security Council stakeout, where Inner City Press was covering the dueling Syria draft resolutions, and headed up two flights of stairs to the Indonesian Lounge.

  There they engaged in two clusters of "informals," with the ATT president taking agreements on goals and objectives from one group to the whole.

  But back in the North Lawn building on Friday, one of the claimed successes was being questioned. A "tiered" process the last step of which is for now the sought after "shall not" transfer weapons to violators was found to have a loophole.

  While a country "may" seek to mitigate the harm, some read the tier as allowing the country to avoid the "shall not" prohibition by NOT seeking to mitigate. If the loophole is closed, will it still be agreed?

  The United States is said by many delegations to be intransigent on including ammunition in the ATT, conflating a duty at the time of transfer with a duty -- not in the ATT -- to track the ammo post-transfer.

 Some worry that if this US concern is applied to arms themselves, the US will agree to nothing.

  Earlier this month, Inner City Press asked now - today - outgoing lead US Mission spokesman Mark Kornblau to please "state the US position on ammunition being covered by an Arms Trade Treaty."

  Kornblau and the Mission to their credit quickly responded, with a previous statement by another US representative to the talks, Tom Countryman, that "the United States has made clear that ammunition should not be included within the scope of the ATT." Countryman concluded, as cited by NGOs, that

"we will continue to listen to any proposals for including ammunition. Our criteria in evaluating such proposals are simple – they must be realistic and limited in the burdens they impose, and they must be effective in achieving the goals and objectives of the ATT. In the absence of such a proposal and a compelling case for its benefits, the United States remains steadfast in its opposition to including ammunition in the ATT.

 So for now the US feels no "compelling case" has been made.

    The "Christmas tree" of items to include or not include in the ATT, which Inner City Press described last Friday, is said to have been whittled down. But as one delegation put it, the whole tree can still catch fire. Watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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