Friday, February 23, 2007

US Rejects Ban on Cluster Bombs

The United States on Friday rejected an international call to abandon the use of cluster bombs, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.


Forty-six countries meeting in Oslo on Friday pledged to seek a treaty banning cluster bombs by next year, with major user and stockpiler Britain and manufacturer France signing on, Norway said.


Japan, Poland and Romania refused to sign the accord, while key nations such as Israel and the United States did not take part in the conference.

The 46 countries agreed to "commit themselves to ... conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument that will prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians," according to the declaration.

A number of leading countries, including Britain and France, had previously said they wanted a ban to be part of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, a process which Norway and a number of other nations consider to be a failure.

A cluster bomb is a container holding hundreds of smaller bomblets. It opens in mid-air and disperses the bomblets over a large area.

The smaller bombs do not always explode on impact, which means they can continue to kill innocent civilians years later.

A recent report by Handicap International claimed that 98 percent of casualties from cluster munitions are non-combatants.