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U.S. arms trade is strong, with buyers a tough crowd

More than half of the purchasers in the developing world have troubling records.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. arms trade is booming - sales reached $32 billion last year - and more than half of the purchasers in the developing world are either undemocratic governments or regimes that engaged in human-rights abuses, a private think tank reported yesterday.

Timed to the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the report by the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan policy institute, named 13 of the top 25 arms purchasers in the developing world as either undemocratic or engaged in major human-rights abuses.

The 13 listed in the report were Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Colombia, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Yemen and Tunisia. Sales to these countries totaled more than $16.2 billion over 2006 and 2007.

The total "contrasts sharply with the Bush administration's pro-democracy rhetoric," the report said.

Also, the report said that 20 of the 27 nations engaged in major armed conflicts were receiving weapons and training from the United States. "U.S. arms transfers are undermining human rights, weakening democracy and fueling conflict around the world," the report said.

William Hartung, lead author of the report, said: "The United States cannot demand respect for human rights and arm human-rights abusers at the same time."

U.S. arms sales grew to $32 billion in 2007, more than three times the level when President Bush took office in 2001, the report said.

The United States is the world's largest arms supplier. U.S. exports range from combat aircraft to Pakistan, Morocco, Greece, Romania and Chile to small arms and light weapons to the Philippines, Egypt and Georgia.

In 2006 and 2007, the United States sold weapons to more than 174 states and territories.

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