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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
'Millions of guns' inundate Iraq
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC correspondent in Geneva

Iraqi gunmen show off their weapons
The report says weapons may spread to neighbouring countries
The collapse of Iraq's army after the war last year flooded the country with millions of firearms, a new study says.

The Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva says the mass of weapons in private hands threatens stability in Iraq and the Middle East.

Iraq changed almost overnight from a state with a well-equipped army to a country with no troops and seven or eight million abandoned weapons.

They range from pistols to machine-guns to portable anti-tank rockets.

The authors of the small arms survey say the massive shift of weapons has been disastrous for the restoration of order in Iraq.

The collapse [of Iraq's army] precipitated what almost certainly was one of the largest and fastest transfers of small arms ever
Small Arms Survey

The firearms are being used by insurgents to attack coalition forces.

They are also being used to commit other crimes.

Murders and other serious offences involving guns have rocketed in Iraq.

In addition, the researchers say Iraq's geographic position means the weapons can easily be transferred out of the country, creating a threat to stability in the entire Middle East for years to come.

And the survey says attempts by coalition forces to disarm Iraqi civilians have been too little and too late.

The small arms survey is part of a United Nations programme to combat trafficking in weapons.

The study, while sounding the alarm over the situation in Iraq, also revealed that there were 200,000 non war-related gun deaths last year worldwide.

Half of them occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The country worst affected was Colombia.

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