The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the first UN treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar international arms trade today, a goal sought for more than a decade to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters, and organized crime. The resolution adopting the landmark treaty was approved by a vote of 154 to 3, with 23 abstentions. As the numbers appeared on the electronic board, loud cheers filled the assembly chamber.
A group of treaty supporters sought a vote in the 193-member world body after Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked its adoption by consensus at the end of a two-week final negotiating conference last Thursday. The three countries voted "no" today, while Russia and China, both major arms exporters, abstained. Many countries, including the United States, control arms exports. But there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. (Read more United Nations stories.)