The following is an exctract from today’s Idependant:

The proliferation of weaponry, in particular small arms, is so widespread that it is responsible for the death of one person every minute and more than 500,000 killings a year, the study found. War in Africa causes economic losses of £10bn a year while the prevalence of guns in daily life is blamed in the group’s report for retarding economic growth in countries including Brazil, Tanzania, Nicaragua and Uganda.

Leading industrialised countries including Britain are blamed for much of the increase in the trade. They are said to sell weaponry to favoured nations to protect their defence industries and do too little to stop the flow of arms to countries paralysed by internal conflict.

Experts highlighted the “cascade” effect of international arms sales from the wealthier northern hemisphere to the poorer south. The annual $25bn trade (£17bn) is strongest in the Middle East and north Africa, accounting for $12bn, and Asia, where it is worth $8bn.

The study pointed to what it said was a rapid increase in weapons sales by the US after 11 September, a time when arms control should be a greater priority.

Washington has increased its military aid to at least 10 countries identified by the US State Department as having poor human rights records, the report said. Last year, security assistance to Uzbekistan rose by $45m while in Pakistan it increased from $3.5m to $1.3bn despite allegations of torture and extra-judicial killings in both countries.

Britain is accused in the report of similar conduct in increasing arms exports to Indonesia from £2m in 2000 to more than £40m in 2002. “The gross abuses of human rights that armed forces allied to the ‘war on terror’ inflict on civilian populations are given little attention,” the report says. “Arms and military assistance are being offered as a geopolitical inducement with few, if any, conditions to protect human rights.”

…Despite the presence of 639 million small arms in the world, nearly two-thirds of them privately owned, eight million more were made every year. In 2001, 16 billion units of military ammunition were made, enough to shoot everyone twice.

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