Page last updated at 00:29 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 01:29 UK

Kenya talks on arms trade treaty

By Peter Greste
BBC News, Nairobi

Ethiopian soldiers. File photo
Money spent on wars means less spent on development

African ministers are due to meet UN disarmament officials and arms control groups to help form a united position on a conventional arms trade treaty.

The talks in Nairobi have been called by the Kenyan government.

Arms control groups argue that Africa has lost billions of dollars in conflicts fuelled by unregulated weapons sales.

They also say that a proposed treaty could significantly reduce the human and economic cost.

Workable agreement

According to one recent study, wars and conflicts cost Africa $18bn (10bn) each year, mostly through the lost human and economic potential.

The money is roughly equivalent to the amount of aid delivered to the continent.

Arms control groups argue that an effective international treaty regulating the trade in conventional weapons could reduce a lot of that cost.

The UN is trying to design just such a treaty.

Diplomats believe that a strong and relatively united position from Africa could help push the treaty past states inherently opposed to the idea.

But consensus is a tall order for a continent that at times seems to be addicted to conflict and that struggles to see eye-to-eye on the most basic of issues.

The Nairobi meeting will not reach any significant deal either - it is far too early in the process for that.

But arms control groups say clear leadership from countries that suffer most from uncontrolled weapons sales is likely to nudge the process towards a workable agreement.

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