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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Iraqis ignore gun amnesty
An Iraqi policeman shoots into the air to disperse a crowd
Baghdad has been traumatised by post-war lawlessness
Weapons collection points have opened around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, as part of a gun amnesty aimed at restoring law and order after the US-led war.

But the initial response by Iraqis has been sluggish, and correspondents say not a single weapon had been handed in at several police stations visited by them.

The BBC's Richard Myron in Baghdad says that with continuing security problems and political uncertainty, few people are willing to give up their arms.

New firearms controls are due to begin in two weeks' time, when the US-led administration says it will seize any weapons not conforming to the new rules.

If I need protection, I'll go buy a gun
Abbas Hussein, Baghdad resident
People will be allowed to keep guns up to 7.62 mm - the calibre of the Kalashnikov assault rifle - at home without licenses for self-defence.

But they need to get permission to carry them outside. Other weapons must be registered with the authorities.

Ingrained gun culture

Our correspondent says that not a single weapon had been turned in at the police station in one Baghdad neighbourhood hours after the collection point had opened.

A US soldier stands guard in front of a store during a search for automatic weapons
Iraqis say coalition troops are unable to protect them

Iraq has an ingrained gun culture and the number of weapons in circulation has proliferated since the end of the war.

The city has been traumatised by the ensuing lawlessness, and many Iraqis say a gun is the best - and sometimes the only - means of self-defence.

"If I need protection, I'll go buy a gun," Abbas Hussein, who was injured by armed robbers only a few days ago, was quoted as saying by the French AFP news agency.

"We can't expect foreigners to save us from other Iraqis," he added.

Despite repeated raids by US troops, underground arms markets continue to flourish in Baghdad.

"For us weapon is a badge of honour," said arms dealer Abbas Fadhel.

"Even Saddam didn't dare to take away our weapons. In fact he used to give people rifles or shotguns as a present on big state occasions," he added.

'House-to-house search'

Correspondents say American commanders and the new Iraqi police have not been surprised by the slow response to the gun amnesty.

They say they are prepared to wait, believing that the word might not have reached all Iraqis and it is too early to judge whether the amnesty will work.

"We have not received any weapons so far," Colonel Haider Ghani Aziz, head of Baghdad's Bab al-Sheikh police station, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

"We will wait and see. If nobody turns out, I think we will start a house-to-house search campaign," he added.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"This is not much more than a token effort"


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