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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At the UN, Arms Trade Treaty Pitched, While UN Role in Congo Gold and Guns Is Murky

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 9 -- Proponents of a global arms trade treaty on Tuesday called it an attempt to "harness private industry" and offer arms manufacturers legitimacy and an even playing field. Last December the U.S. cast a negative vote against the treaty's progress; Tuesday the proponents said they are reaching out, including to the National Rifle Association. The specter or caricature of the UN undermining the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may be too tempting to give up. Tuesday's event include stories from the field from UN military advisors. Major-General Patrick Cammaert, until last February the UN's force commander in Eastern Congo, described nearly disarming rebel general Laurent Nkunda in November 2006, only to see him substantially re-armed a week later. "The arms come in across the border from Uganda and Rwanda," he said. "We cannot police the lakes. It's all about resources."

            Inner City Press asked Major-General Cammaert about the allegations that some UN peacekeepers traded in gold and gun in Eastern Congo. "I never saw a report that proved that any of the continents traded gold for weapons," he answered, very lawyerly. It has been reported that the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services found evidence of enabling of gold trading. Major-General Cammaert said that "it's possible that out of 15,000 troops... one or two bought a jewel." But the OIOS finding, reported by BBC, involves the use of UN airstrips for gold traders to visit rebels and make large scale purchases.

            Was the split-off from Peacekeeping of a Division of Field Support something urged by force commanders, or more in the nature of hype, Inner City Press asked Major-General Cammaert. He shrugged and said, "It's done, now lets get on with it." Major-General Cammaert said he'd like to offer his experience to the UN as an advisor or in some other capacity.  If DPKO's recent attempts to control the flow the information is any guide, it may be that Major-General Cammaert is too candid for the Department.

Maj.-Gen. Cammaert gives medals in Kisangani, gold and guns not shown

            Major-General Cammaert also repeated his criticism of European and North American member states who "drive" the peacekeeping agenda nevertheless failing to contribute troops. Inner City Press asked about reports, which it confirmed later in the day, that Sudan will not accept any "Western" helicopter pilots. "They won't allow night flying either," Major-General Cammaert said. "So then many countries won't contribute troops, because they won't be able to extract their wounded." And so it goes...

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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

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540