June 14, 2006

Oxfam says global bullet trade out of control

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Up to 14 billion bullets are made
globally every year, enough to shoot every person on the planet
twice, aid agency Oxfam said on Thursday in a report urging
tougher controls on small arms.

As the United Nations prepares to meet in New York on June
26 to wrangle over regulating the trade in guns and ammunition,
Oxfam said lax controls meant millions of bullets ended up in
war zones and in the hands of human rights abusers.

And nowhere was this more noticeable than in Baghdad, where
shootings are a daily event.

Oxfam calculated it costs just $2.40 to take a human life
in the Iraqi capital. The aid agency arrived at the figure by
multiplying the black market cost of a bullet for an AK-47
rifle with the eight shots it said was the average to kill

"New ammunition is widely available on Baghdad's black
market," said Oxfam director Barbara Stocking. "Either it was
smuggled in from neighboring countries or it was leaked from
coalition or Iraqi forces' supplies."

"In either case, weak controls mean lives lost on the
streets of Baghdad," she said.

Oxfam's report "Ammunition: the fuel of conflict" said big
ammunition makers China, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Bulgaria, Romania
and Israel provide no data at all on their ammunition exports,
apart from shotgun cartridges.

It also said at least 76 countries worldwide were now
making ammunition -- including Kenya and Turkey which had both
joined the global gun club in the past decade.

The report said bullets made between 1999 and 2004 in the
Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania and Russia had been found on
sale in Baghdad.

But while the trade in small arms was becoming more
regulated -- albeit with significant loopholes -- ammunition
was often ignored by the lawmakers, Oxfam said.

"At the UN world conference on the small arms trade,
governments must agree new global principles to govern both the
small arms and the ammunition trade," Stocking said.