United Nations (CNSNews.com) - Facing a Friday deadline, conferees at a United Nations conference on the world's illicit small-arms trade continued working behind closed doors to forge a consensus on a "program for action."
U.N. officials said Wednesday that conferees completed their initial reading of the document's preamble, then began a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the entire text.
One U.N. official who did want to be named said the sticking point appears to be that conferees can't agree on how to prevent and/or eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons without trampling on individual nations' freedoms.
Officially, conference delegates said Wednesday that the document's first "operative section" deals with the main theme of "preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons."
Conference President, Ambassador Camilo Reyes of Colombia, predicted that the discussions will achieve concrete results.
"There are good reasons to be optimistic," he said. "We have a very good chance of arriving at a final document for the program of action," Reyes said Tuesday.
When asked how the negotiations were proceeding, Reyes said the process was "very useful" because it involved a thorough exchange of ideas. "The method of work enabled delegations to focus on their own priorities," he said.
However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the U.S. delegation who has been shuttling between Capitol Hill and New York, told the New York Times Wednesday that a majority of Americans wouldn't approve of U.S. efforts to derail the talks.
Feinstein also accused the "American gun lobby" of presenting other nations with a distorted view of American opinion on gun control.
The United States, with both a large gun industry and sound gun administration laws, should be leading the way in demanding better marking and tracing of weapons worldwide and should not be trying to block such moves, she told the Times.
Feinstein also said she took "strong exception" to what she called a "perception" by the Bush administration officials and their supporters at the U.N. that Americans fear that the United Nations is threatening their right to own guns.
Last Monday, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), one of the strongest pro-gun proponents in the House, told the U.N. that it should limit itself to stopping the flow of illegal guns into areas of conflict, or it would risk alienating Congress and put future U.N. dues payments in jeopardy.
Feinstein said, "I do not believe that Mr. Barr speaks for the majority of the American people. I believe he speaks from the National Rifle Association perspective. He certainly doesn't speak for California. It's now well established that Californians want controls on weapons. California has 34 million people and this isn't a peanut of a state."
See Earlier Story:
Conservative Congressman Criticizes UN Gun Control Proposal (16 July 2001)