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Support for arms trade treaty grows

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Support for international efforts to secure an effective arms trade treaty has received boost with new European funds going into the work of leading think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Frenetic arms buying in Latin America in 2009 and last year led to diplomatic initiatives, including several from the Obama administration, to control a trend that critics said could turn into an arms race.

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The arms buying was fueled partly by tensions between Colombia and Venezuela and partly by the various national military establishments' lobbying for defense modernization.

More recently, arms buying focus has shifted to the Middle East amid continuing tensions between Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf region.

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SIPRI said its arms transfers research program received funding from the foreign ministries of Norway and Sweden.

The money will go toward further research to inform discussions toward an arms trade treaty opening later in the year.

Through this support SIPRI can continue to be actively engaged in the ATT process, the think tank said.

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Findings from SIPRI and other organizations worldwide will be presented at the preparatory committee for the U.N. conference on the proposed new treaty in July.

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Latin American regional organizations announced initiatives in 2010 to promote transparency in defense purchases. At the same time, however, aggressive marketing by Russia, France, China and other suppliers led to dramatic increases in national spending on arms.

Russia's arms export agency Rosoboronexport secured a new market, Peru, with the sale of eight helicopters to the Latin American country. The deal for the delivery of six Mi-171Sh Hip transport and two Mi-35P Hind attack helicopters, worth up to $250 million, followed two years of lobbying by Moscow, including a visit to the country by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

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Russia earlier clinched a deal with Venezuela for weapons worth about $4.4 billion, including 24 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter jets, 50 attack and transport helicopters, a dozen missile systems and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.

A SIPRI study last year reported weapons sales to Latin America were 150 percent higher during the last five years compared with the beginning of the millennium.

The arms trade treaty aims to control or more effectively monitor arms sales but preparatory talks have yet to reach agreement on essential elements of a draft.

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Debate continues over what arms to include in the treaty. Supporters of a wider treaty say the treaty should not just include inventories on the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms but also cover small arms and light weapons and ammunition, as well as technology transfer and brokering.

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