ILLICIT WEAPONS TRADE IN PACIFIC GROWING

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UNITED NATIONS, New York (March 29, 2001 – Radio Australia)---A United Nations conference has been told that illicit trade in weapons in the South Pacific by organized crime and political factions is a growing threat to the region's fragile stability.

Samoa's U.N. ambassador, Neroni Slade, said while the flow of guns was not measured in tens of thousands even a handful of basic weapons can destabilize small communities with limited resources.

Ambassador Slade said instability in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua-New Guinea meant international measures were needed to tackle illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.

He said reports indicate there is a network of criminals in Australia and Asia smuggling thousands of automatic weapons into Papua New Guinea in exchange for top-quality marijuana.

New Zealand Disarmament Minister Matt Robson agreed with the ambassador, saying arms smuggling posed a clear danger to the region.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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