The UN General Assembly is expected to authorise talks aimed at drafting a binding treaty regulating the lucrative international trade in arms in 2008 - but without US blessing, the UN and non-governmental organisations said.
Amnesty International, Oxford International and the International Action Network on Small Arms, which have been campaigning for the treaty, said on Friday the next UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, is expected to discuss with UN members how to begin the negotiations in 2007.
A treaty on arms trade would regulate sale of conventional weapons, from an attack helicopter to small weapons.
The UN and NGOs say that conventional weapons and small arms continue to inflict untold numbers of deaths, whether in conflict or in a peaceful society. They said the irresponsible arms trade has fuelled conflict, caused grave human rights violations and hampered development.
The US, one of the world's largest weapons exporters, was the lone dissenter while China and Russia, also big exporters, abstained from the panel that voted to refer the issue for discussion in the General Assembly.
The proposal was endorsed by a committee of the 192-nation assembly on Thursday. The vote was 133 for the proposal, one against, and 24 abstentions. The proposal for discussion will be considered and expected to pass in the assembly some time in November.
Dozens of small nations did not take part in the vote.
A group of government experts on weapons and trade will be set up in 2008 to begin work on the treaty.
The arms trade treaty is strongly supported by a group of 15 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including the Dalai Lama and Amnesty International.
Other laureates supporting the treaty included Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Lech Walesa of Poland, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.