The committee's approval of the resolution, which was opposed by the United States and gun-rights groups, must be agreed by the UN General Assembly which is likely to take it up next month.

 

Human-rights campaigners said the resolution may lead to the study of a small-arms treaty, which would go a long way toward keeping small arms out of conflict zones.

 

The resolution said the lack of international standards in the arms trade "is a contributory factor to conflict, displacement of people, crime and terrorism."

 

Standards

 

The resolution appealed to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, to authorise the establishment of a group of experts to look into "establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms" from 2008.

 

"Today, the world's governments have voted to end the scandal of the unregulated arms trade"

Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International

The resolution was adopted on Thursday by the General Assembly committee dealing with disarmament issues with 139 'yes' votes, 24 abstentions and one 'no' vote, lodged by the US.

 

"The only way for a global arms trade treaty to work is to have every country agree on a standard," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations.

 

"For us, that standard would be so far below what we are already required to do under US law that we had to vote against it in order to maintain our higher standards," he said.

 

Opposition

 

The National Rifle Association (NRA), an American pro gun-ownership group, has strongly opposed UN efforts to secure a treaty to curb private ownership of small arms.

 

The group says such a treaty might embolden regimes that violate human rights to disarm their citizens and make popular uprisings against oppression impossible.

 

But human-rights campaigners supporting the drive to regulate the arms trade welcomed the resolution's approval.

 

"Today, the world's governments have voted to end the scandal of the unregulated arms trade," said Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International.

 

"Since the Control Arms campaign began three years ago, an estimated one million people have been killed by conventional weapons," he added.

 

Campaigners behind the resolution said they hope a final treaty would boost compliance with previous ones related to conventional weapons while prohibiting the transfer of small arms to countries likely to engage in the abuse of their citizens.