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No More Gun-Running In Paradise, Says Robson

"The South Pacific is faced with a modern plague of illicit small arms – in the Solomon Islands, in Fiji, on Bougainville. But we in the Pacific are organising ourselves to deal with that challenge," Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Matt Robson told the United Nations in New York today.

"The illegal trade of small arms in the South Pacific kills and maims hundreds of people, prevents the holding of free and fair elections, and retards important commercial activity."

He was addressing the first ever United Nations meeting to deal with small arms issues.

"New Zealand is working with our Pacific partners to control illegal small arms in the region. Today we have helped introduce a 'Programme of Action' to the United Nations, which will help South Pacific governments do their best to control the illegal trade of small arms.

"This means disarming warring factions after conflicts, destroying weapon stockpiles and managing securely the legal trade and ownership of small arms.

"The sad reality is that the legal trade of arms remains the originating source of illegal weapons in the South Pacific region.

"We saw this in Fiji where the storage of military weapons was inadequate, and those weapons ended up in the hands of the coup leaders.

Tomorrow, Matt Robson will deliver a pair of shoes belonging to New Zealander Jason Winter, killed at the Tasmanian Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Jason Winter's shoes will join hundreds of other pairs of shoes laid out at the conference at the United Nations. Each pair represents a person killed by a gun.

"I don't want to see another Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control deliver another pair of shoes belonging to a New Zealander who should be alive today," says Matt Robson.

Of the 139 countries represented at the conference, 50 were represented at Ministerial level.

Ends

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