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Posted: 2/22/2002 4:05:09 PM EDT
And to think I thought Annan was a good and honest man! Gun-rights groups yesterday criticized the United Nations after revelations that security officers for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan may be illegally carrying automatic weapons. The "draconian" gun-control measures advocated by the United Nations apparently are not applicable to Mr. Annan, said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. "It's the height of hypocrisy," said John Velleco, a spokesman for the Gun Owners of America. "The U.N. wants to regulate small arms worldwide, but apparently, that doesn't apply to them." U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said that all weapons carried by Mr. Annan's detail are properly licensed and registered. "What weapons our security people purchase for use, as a matter of policy, any weapons we purchase, we purchase legally," he said. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed this week that Mr. Annan's security detail is being investigated for carrying German-made MP5 machine guns. The U.N. security service isn't considered a law-enforcement organization and is not allowed to carry weapons such as the MP5, a State Department official said this week. But U.N. security officers have been doing so since 1998, according to sources with the U.N. Security and Safety Service. Mr. Annan, who is from Ghana, is a longtime vocal opponent of small arms. Last year, he led an international conference against the manufacture and sale of such weapons, which included submachine guns. Among the restrictions he supported were tighter export controls. "He now finds himself at legal odds with them," said Mr. Arulanandam. "If the law has been broken, let them pay the price. It's a fairly straightforward issue." Matt Bennett, a spokesman for Americans for Gun Safety, said, "If these guns were improperly imported, we would certainly urge the U.N. to investigate and rectify this." Mr. Eckhard declined to discuss details of the weapons he said have been cleared. "I would never admit to you that we have Colt 45s or MP5s. That's a classified matter," he said. Machine guns have been banned in the United States since 1986. Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, said U.N. security is "flouting" the ban, sending a "terrible message to the average citizen." She noted that the issue aligns her group, an anti-gun organization, with pro-gun lobbies. "The other side is always saying, 'Let's enforce the laws that are on the books,' and in this case, that's what needs to be done. Whether it's [National Rifle Association President] Charlton Heston or Kofi Annan, or whoever, there are laws."
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