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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Wars, Refugees and Arms Agreements

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This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Researchers have hopeful news for the international community. A new study shows that fewer wars were reported around the world last year. A second study reports that last year's agreements for non-nuclear weapons sales dropped in value. And a third study reports the number of people seeking asylum decreased during the first half of this year.

We begin in Sweden. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has recorded major decreases in armed conflict worldwide. The non-governmental organization counted nineteen major armed conflicts during two thousand three. A record thirty-three wars were reported for nineteen ninety-one. That was after the Soviet Union fell apart.

The Stockholm study says three new wars started last year. The United States led a coalition to invade Iraq, and two new conflicts started in Africa. One was in Liberia. The other was in the Darfur area of Sudan. The Swedish organization said wars already in progress included the separatist conflict in the Russian republic of Chechnya, and the continuing conflicts in the Middle East and Indian Kashmir.

The second study measured the value of weapons transfer agreements in two thousand three. The Congressional Research Service of the United States Library of Congress said world arms sales last year dropped to about twenty-five thousand million dollars. The agency says this was the third straight year that world arms agreements decreased in value.

The report also says the United States continues to be the world's largest arms seller. The United States made agreements valued at fourteen and one-half thousand million dollars. That is almost fifty-seven percent of all weapons agreements worldwide. Russia made arms-transfer deals worth about four and one-half thousand million dollars. The agreements were about seventeen percent of total arms sales for the year.

Finally, the United Nations reported the average number of people seeking asylum in more than twenty-four industrial nations for six months. The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees said the monthly average for the first half of this year was the lowest since nineteen eighty-seven. France, the United States, Britain, Germany and Austria provided asylum for many refugees during that period.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Gwen Outen.

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