Meeting adopts cluster bomb ban

Discussion in 'Politics' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, May 30, 2008.

  1. Meeting adopts cluster bomb ban, debates loopholes
    Fri May 30, 2008 1:26pm EDT
    (Adds U.N. comment, paragraphs 2-3)

    By Andras Gergely

    DUBLIN, May 30 (Reuters) - More than 100 nations formally agreed on Friday to ban the use of cluster bombs but debate continued on loopholes that could benefit powers such as the United States, which has refused to take part in talks on a ban.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged states to quickly sign and ratify the draft treaty, which was declared adopted on Friday after no delegation objected to the text formulated after almost two weeks of talks in the Irish capital.

    "The United Nations will provide its full support and is ready to assist in the implementation of the responsibilities under this convention," Ban's spokeswoman said in a statement.

    Delegates agreed on the draft treaty on Wednesday after a promise from Britain to stop using the devices.

    The United States, China and Russia have rejected the pact, while NATO states have backed it.

    Cluster munitions contain "bomblets" that are scattered from planes or by artillery shells and that detonate like mines.

    Opponents say the bombs cause indiscriminate injury after often lying unexploded for months or years until accidentally trodden on. Children are frequently the victims.

    The accord's impact has been softened by a clause, known as Article 21, that allows troops of a signatory state to cooperate with an ally using the weapons, such as the United States.

    "Others have referred to Article 21 as a loophole," said Earl Turcotte, spokesman for the Canadian delegation.

    "We have referred to it as an essential element of legal protection to accommodate situations in combined operations which may be beyond our control," he told the conference.

    Campaigners said they aimed to ensure that countries avoid using the clause to allow non-signatories to stockpile the munitions on their own territory or help in joint operations where cluster bombs were being deployed.

    "I can't understand how you'd say there are big holes in the treaty," said Thomas Nash of umbrella group Cluster Munition Coalition.

    The U.N. Development Programme says cluster munitions have caused more than 13,000 confirmed injuries and deaths around the world, the vast majority of them in Laos, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

    Israel, which made widespread use of cluster bombs during its 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, has reiterated its intention to go on using them. India and Pakistan are also notable non-signatories of the treaty.

    The so-called Oslo process against the explosive devices, modelled on the campaign against anti-personnel land mines a decade ago, is due to end with the signing of a treaty in the Norwegian capital in December. (Editing by Giles Elgood)