Reporters on the Job

PAPA PETER: The Monitor's Peter Ford, who says he is "approaching middle age," was quite proud of his ability to keep up with the young US soldiers from the 101st Airborne, whom he accompanied up and down hills on patrol in southern Kosovo this past week (page 1). The fact that they all addressed him as "sir" did not surprise him. "Soldiers call everything that moves 'sir,' " says Peter. But when the company commander, a Captain, also called him "sir," Peter felt the grey in his beard, and realized he could have been most of these men's father.

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GLOBAL STEPS ON SMALL ARMS: More than 140 nations agreed Saturday, for the first time, to an international pact to curb the trade in illegal weapons, reports The Associated Press. Two weeks of United Nations-sponsored talks resulted in a voluntary pact that calls on governments to require armsmakers to compile records on small-arms sales and mark weapons to aid in tracing them into the black market.

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As reported in the July 10 Monitor, the UN estimates that more than 500 million illegal firearms are annually responsible for killing 500,000 people.

Some delegates criticized the accord as "watered down" by the US - which balked at limits on weapons sales and restrictions on civilian gun ownership. Many Africans, Europeans, and human rights groups at the conference protested that the accord will neither block governments from arming rebels nor control gun ownership anywhere.

"Most of the illicit weapons trade starts out in the legal export market before it gets diverted," says Joost Hiltermann, an expert on small arms at Human Rights Watch. The Americans' tough negotiating position, he added, provided political cover for Russia, China, and Eastern European countries that have flooded the developing world with weapons.

David Clark Scott World editor

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