UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. meeting meant to expand a five-year-old crackdown on the illicit global trade in small arms ended in chaos on Friday as delegates ran out of time without reaching agreement on a plan for future action. "There was a total meltdown at the end. You don't know if it was a conspiracy or just a screw-up," said one delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity. Other delegates said negotiations had simply proceeded too slowly, leaving too much to accomplish on the last day. But Rebecca Peters of the London-based International Action Network on Small Arms accused governments of letting a few states "hold them all hostage and to derail any plans which might have brought any improvements in this global crisis." IANSA identified the main players blocking agreement as Cuba, India, Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Other gun control activists named China, Egypt and Venezuela as well. The meeting was dogged from the start by zealous members of the U.S. National Rifle Association, who flooded the United Nations with letters falsely accusing it of secretly plotting to take away Americans' guns on July 4, a U.N. holiday marking U.S. Independence Day when delegates did not meet. The George W. Bush administration, an ally of the rifle association, set the tone from the start when UnderSecretary of State for Arms Control Robert Joseph laid out a long list of proposals that Washington would not accept. Joseph, however, said Washington was willing to endorse a set of global principles aimed at keeping small arms out of the hands of groups intent on human rights abuse, genocide or breaking U.N. arms embargoes. The idea of tightening controls on international arms transfers turned out to be a popular one, winning support from 115 governments, IANSA's Anthea Lawson said. But plans for a formal appeal for tougher controls died at the meeting's end, although it was expected to resurface later in the year in the 192-nation U.N. General Assembly. The conference was called to update a 2001 action plan against illegal small arms, which as defined by the United Nations range from pistols and rifles to grenades, mortars and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. But two weeks of negotiations and speeches came to naught. "In my estimation, an agreed final declaration was within grasp," said conference president Prasad Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka's U.N. ambassador. But he said the meeting had still succeeded by focusing attention on the small arms issue.