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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 29, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: UN Arms Treaty Blocked By Iran, Syria, North Korea

An international treaty regulating the $70 billion global arms trade was stalled (Reuters) after Iran, Syria, and North Korea vetoed the move. The proposal, the first of its kind, introduced standards that would block illegal exports of conventional weapons, including small arms and missile launchers, as well as larger tanks, warships, and attack helicopters. Iran's ambassador said the draft had major loopholes (al-Jazeera) and was "hugely susceptible to politicization and discrimination." Because the resolution failed to garner unanimous approval during initial negotiations, it now goes to a vote at the 193-nation General Assembly (Bloomberg), where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. Diplomats said the draft could now face a vote as early as Tuesday.


"In conjunction with Conference President Peter Woolcott's decision to strike language broadening the treaty's application to weapons not explicitly specified in the convention, states will enjoy broad license to define their own efforts to regulate the arms trade. In the absence of a more powerful secretariat empowered to define concepts like 'war criminals,' 'terrorists,' 'illicit markets,' and the like, the long-anticipated ATT may make little difference in the real world," writes CFR's Stewart Patrick.

"In addition to the narrowing of the scope of weapons covered, rights groups and supporters of a tough treaty said ammunition is not properly covered, and loopholes that exclude defense cooperation agreements, loans and leases remain in the draft," writes Louis Charbonneau for Reuters.

"[If] adopted, a real arms curb might ameliorate the flow of weapons that result in atrocities, whether in the Middle East or in Africa or elsewhere. At minimum, the arms and ammunition would be more expensive," writes Evelyn Leopold for the Huffington Post.



North Korea Prepares Rockets

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the country's strategic rocket forces to be on standby (Yonhap) to strike U.S. and South Korean targets. The announcement comes a day the United States flew two B-2 stealth bombers in operational drills over the Korean Peninsula.

This CFR Backgrounder traces the trajectory of the Six Party Talks on North Korea's denuclearization.

JAPAN: Okinawa prefecture formally received the government's recent application to reclaim land (KyodoNews) in preparation for the transfer of a U.S. Marine Corps base.



Explosion Kills Six in Pakistan's Peshawar

A suicide bomber (al-Arabiya) targeting a parliamentary police convoy in northwestern Pakistan's Peshawar province killed ten people in a high-security zone several hundred yards away from the U.S. consulate. Peshawar, on the border with Afghanistan, has been a focus point of militant violence.

SRI LANKA: Buddhist monks led hundreds in an assault (AFP) on a Muslim-owned clothing warehouse in Sri Lanka's capital of Colombo. Sri Lanka's Muslims are less than 10 percent of the population.

This CFR Backgrounder outlines the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers.



Mortar Attacks Damascus University

At least fifteen students were killed after mortar bombs (al-Jazeera) landed on a canteen at Damascus University. The attack comes as the UN expressed concern over reports of forced deportations of Syrian refugees from Turkey, a claim Ankara rejected.



UN Approves Congo Combat Force

The UN Security Council approved the creation of a 2,500-strong special combat force (BBC) to carry out "targeted offensive operations" against armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, marking the first time the UN has given an offensive mandate to its troops.

MALI: French President Francois Hollande said that France will cut its troop levels (CNN) in Mali from 4,000 to roughly 1,000 by the end of the year.



France's Companies to Shoulder 75 Percent Tax

French President François Hollande announced Thursday that companies would pay a 75 percent tax rate (France24) on salaries over one million euros, reformulating a campaign promise originally aimed at individual tax payers. The initial plan was struck down by France's constitutional court in December.

ITALY: Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of Italy's Democratic party, said he failed to form a proposed center-left government (FT), leaving the country's political stalemate in the hands of President Giorgio Napolitano.



Argentina to Offer Twenty-Five-Year Bond to Suing Creditors

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez plans to offer suing creditors a twenty-five-year bond (MercoPress) worth the face value of its debt when the country defaulted in 2002. Argentina has until midnight Friday to propose how it would pay a $1.4 billion judgment on its defaulted sovereign debt.

MEXICO: Civic groups in Mexico are urging President Enrique Peña Nieto to let Congress debate the creation of a new paramilitary police force (LAT), fearing an ill-defined mandate and lack of human rights protocols.

This CFR video delves into Mexico's struggle with its drug war and the government's offensive against it.



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