Friday, February 23, 2007

Following Success Of International Land Mine Treaty, Forty-Six Non-Militaristic And Humane Nations Push For 2008 Treaty Banning Cluster Bombs

"Forty-six nations adopted a declaration Friday calling for a 2008 treaty banning cluster bombs, saying the weapons kill and maim long after conflicts end and inflict ''unacceptable harm'' on civilians, particularly children.

Some key arms makers -- including the U.S., Russia, Israel and China -- snubbed the conference of 49 nations. Of those attending, Poland, Romania and Japan did not approve the final text.

But organizers said the declaration was needed despite the absence of key nations to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster posed by unexploded cluster munitions.

Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles which scatter them over vast areas, with some failing to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years after conflicts end until they are disturbed, often by civilians.

As many as 60 percent of the victims in Southeast Asia are children, the Cluster Munition Coalition campaign group said. The weapons have recently been used in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon, it said. The U.N. estimated that Israel dropped as many as 4 million bomblets in southern Lebanon during last year's war with Hezbollah, with as many 40 percent failing to explode on impact.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry said: ''During the recent conflict in Lebanon Israel used no munitions that were outlawed by international treaties or international law.''

Regev said if the declaration ever evolves into a treaty, then Israel would examine it and decide then how to respond.

Children can be attracted to the unexploded bombs by their small size, shape and bright colors, activists say.

While the document is not binding, organizers and activists hope it will pressure nations into halting the use of cluster bombs. Norway hopes the treaty would be similar to one outlawing anti-personnel mines, negotiated in Oslo in 1997.

''If you need proof that you can conclude a treaty without the United States, Russia and China, look at the land mine treaty,'' said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch. Despite rejecting that treaty, Goose said, the major powers have stopped deploying land mines and the number of civilian casualties has been cut in half since 1997." ...

Associated Press "46 Nations Call for Cluster Bomb Ban" New York Times February 23, 2007

Cluster Bomb.

Photo credit: With thanks.


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