Awareness

Stoere said: "I see no reason why countries who have signed on to that treaty would not sign on to this one because what we are talking about here is the anti-personnel landmine all over again."

 

Cluster bombs can contain a range of munitions that can be dropped from aircraft or fired in artillery shells or rockets.

 

These contain hundreds of sub-munitions that spread out across wide areas.

 

The bomblets sometimes fail to explode during combat and can pose a threat to civilians for years after a conflict.

 

Advocacy group Handicap International cites 11,000 documented cases where civilians have been killed or injured by cluster munitions over the past 30 years.

 

The US was not present
in Oslo [EPA]
Israel's use of cluster munitions in its conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon last year heightened public awareness.

 

'Indiscriminate is indiscriminate'

 

Nobel laureate Jody Williams, winner of the 1997 peace prize for leading the anti-landmine campaign, said: "Indiscriminate is indiscriminate whether it is a landmine, a cluster bomb or a nuclear weapon.

 

"Any indiscriminate weapon is illegal under international law."

 

Munitions-producing nations, including the US, Russia and China, have resisted a ban.

 

Stoere urged governments to forge a plan to reach a legally binding treaty to address all the "unacceptable consequences" of cluster bombs by 2008.

 

Stoere said the treaty should ban the use, stockpiling and proliferation of cluster munitions and provide for clearing them, destroying stockpiles and helping affected nations.

 

At the start of the meeting, Austria announced it had adopted a cluster munitions moratorium.

 

Norway also has a moratorium and Belgium has banned the weapons.