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Friday, September 22, 2006

Military spending tops Cold War record

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters): Global military spending is expected to hit $1.06 trillion (840 billion pounds) this year, topping the record set during the Cold War era, an international aid agency reported on Friday.

"Arms sales do not start conflicts, but they certainly fuel and lengthen them," said Bernice Romero, international campaign director for Oxfam International, the group that released the study. "It is time the world stemmed the uncontrolled flood of weapons into the world's war zones."

The previous record for military spending was set in 1988, towards the end of the Cold War, when governments spent an estimated $1.03 trillion, Oxfam said. After falling off after the Cold War ended, military spending has been steadily climbing since 1999, the group said.

An artillery unit launches a SA-2 'Guideline' surface-to-air guided missile during a tactical military exercise of the Bulgarian army at Shabla military base, about 500 km (310 miles) northeast of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, September 14, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer
Oxfam released the study as seven nations tried to drum up support at the 192-nation U.N. General Assembly for a treaty banning arms sales to those intent on genocide, human rights abuses or U.N. arms embargo violations.

The assembly is expected to vote next month on whether to start drafting the arms trade treaty, Oxfam said. Kim Howells, minister of State for foreign and commonwealth affairs, told a U.N. meeting on Wednesday that he hoped the completed pact would be adopted by the General Assembly in 2008.

The treaty, which would be binding under international law, should set clear standards for when an arms transfer could not take place. It also should provide for monitoring and enforcement, Howells told the meeting.

He reassured governments that a treaty would not seek to prevent nations from buying arms for their own defence needs.

Officials from Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya also expressed support for the treaty at Wednesday's meeting.

Oxfam relied on arms spending figures compiled annually by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which compiles annual reports on defence spending based on constant 2003 prices and exchange rates.

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