Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cluster Bombs, US rejects ban

US rejects ban on cluster bombs
AFP February 23, 2007

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

"We ... take the position that these munitions do have a place and a use in military inventories, given the right technology as well as the proper rules of engagement," 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.

"We, ourselves, have already taken a couple of other steps with regard to technical upgrades to cluster munitions, as well as looking very closely at the rules of engagement, how they are used," said McCormack.

"So it is something that over the course of the years we have looked at very closely. We have taken very seriously the international discussion with respect to the threat posed by unexploded ordnance to innocent civilians," he 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.