Cluster bomb ban adopted

US, Israel, Pakistan, China and Russia oppose treaty banning cluster munitions.

    Israel dropped thousands of cluster munitions during a 2006 war in Lebanon


    Countries from around the world have banned the use of current designs of cluster bombs in a treaty human rights workers have described as a "monumental achievement".


    Cluster bombs

    Delegations from 111 countries formally accepted the deal at a ceremony in Dublin, the Irish capital, on Friday after almost two weeks of negotiations.

    The convention, agreed on Wednesday, requires signatories to eliminate stockpiles of cluster munitions within eight years.

    Marc Garlasco, a military analyst with Human Rights Watch, said the treaty was a "monumental achievement".

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    Garlasco told Al Jazeera that although the US and other nations have not committed to signing the agreement, he expects the treaty will stigmatise cluster munitions and so deter those nations from using them.

    "We will now see a future in which not only will these weapons not be used, but [the treaty] also provides for victim assistance as well as clearance of weapons that have been used in the past," he said.

    Ban opposed

    The US, along with Israel, Pakistan, China and Russia, who are among the main producers and stockpilers of the weapons, have opposed the ban.

    Others have questioned whether the treaty will have any significant impact.

    Al Jazeera's Hamish Macdonald reports that article 21 of the document provides logistical loop-holes.

    "The article stipulates that any country which signs up to the treaty can still participate in joint operations with any nation which does not," he said.

    Leila Blacking, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: "This was the balance between getting a treaty out that people would be prepared to sign and not having a treaty at all.

    "It's been a difficult process, ten days ago we weren't even sure that we'd agree on the text that's as strong as it is today."

    Even though these states have all agreed on the text, they still must go to Oslo at the end of this year and sign the actual treaty, Blacking said.

    Many key countries are not participating, including the US, China, Russia and Israel, so the potential loop-holes are vast.

    A third of recorded cluster munitions
    casualties are children [EPA]

    Cluster munitions release small "bomblets" in mid-air which spread over a large area, but many of the bombs do not detonate and remain dangerous, injuring and killing civilians after periods of conflict have ended.

    The document allows the use of future cluster bombs which pick targets more precisely and contain self-destruct technology.

    Norway spearheaded talks in February 2007 to end the use of the bomb.

    The convention is due to be signed in Oslo on December 2-3. States will then have to ratify the pact.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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