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Arms Spending Fueled by Iraq Conflict

Little Progress on World Disarmament

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, JUNE 13, 2004 (Zenit) - The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute this week published its annual study on armaments, disarmament and security issues in the world. The SIPRI Yearbook 2004 observed that the U.S.-led military action against Iraq starting in March 2003 was the dominant security issue of last year. The occupation both displayed the "unique strength" possessed by the United States, as well as revealing the limitations of military power, in SIPRI's opinion.

According to the yearbook, world military spending in 2003 increased by about 11% in real terms. "A remarkable rate of increase," it commented, coming after the 6.5% rise a year earlier. Spending in 2003 reached $956 billion. The main factor behind the increase is the U.S. reaction to the terrorist threat and its action in Iraq. The United States counts for almost half of the world total of military spending.

Military expenditure is also rising in several other major countries, but the increases are smaller. India and Japan have increased spending, roughly in line with their gross domestic product growth. China has also increased its military spending.

The study observes that the overwhelming share of the production of military goods and services takes place in China, Europe, Russia and the United States. Along with a continuing concentration of firms in the arms industry due to company takeovers, SIPRI notes that the traditional arms industry is moving into a new range of security products, in a gray zone between the military and commercial sectors.

The international arms trade has also increased in the last year, with Russia and the United States remaining as the major suppliers. Their major arms importers last year were China, India, Taiwan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and Japan.

SIPRI noted that efforts to continue a conventional-arms reduction in Europe remain deadlocked. The main obstacle is Russia's noncompliance with the commitments it made at a 1999 summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, particularly on the question of withdrawing military forces from Georgia and Moldova.

In the Americas, progress is continuing within the framework of the Organization of American States. Meetings have been held on how to build confidence and deal with security threats.

Weapons of mass destruction

Concerning biological weapons, SIPRI noted that rapid developments in science, particularly in biotechnology, could open up new possibilities for future military or terrorist misuse. Another problem is the increased movement of people, knowledge and products across borders as well as the greater diffusion of information via the Internet.

Establishing effective controls in this area is not easy. It is difficult to gather reliable intelligence in assessing whether a country is developing biological weapons, as experience in Iraq demonstrated. Difficult too is distinguishing between permitted and prohibited activities under the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the yearbook commented.

On a positive note the yearbook mentioned that President Moammar Gadhafi last December made a commitment to dismantle Libya's weapons of mass destruction, including its chemical weapon stockpile.

Regarding nuclear weapons SIPRI commented that non-proliferation efforts continued to face serious challenges in 2003. North Korea announced it would become the first party to withdraw from the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and later announced that it had developed a nuclear weapon capability. As well, evidence emerged that Iran had secretly pursued over several decades nuclear technologies with direct military applications, in contravention of an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

And last year also saw revelations highlighting the willingness of some states, or of individual scientists, to sell sensitive nuclear technologies and design expertise.

Good news on conflicts

The yearbook had some good news on the number of major armed conflicts. At 19 it was the lowest number for the post Cold War period, with the exception of 1997 which saw 18 conflicts. The main source of conflicts continues to be internal strife. In fact, only two of the 19 conflicts were fought between states: Iraq and the allied powers, and the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The yearbook considers Afghanistan to be a mix of inter- and intra-state conflict.

Characteristic of the intra-state conflicts is their resistance to quick solutions. For example, the long-running conflicts in Colombia and Israel have defied repeated efforts to find peace. Last year also saw an intensification of internal conflicts in Burundi, ...

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