Cluster bomb ban treaty approved


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Cluster bomb ban treaty approved
BBC News Online

Cluster bombs contain hundreds of sub-munitions or "bomblets"
More than 100 nations have reached an agreement on a treaty which would ban current designs of cluster bombs.

Diplomats meeting in Dublin agreed to back an international ban on the use of the controversial weapons following 10 days of talks.

But some of the world's main producers and stockpilers - including the US, Russia and China - oppose the move.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it a "big step forward to make the world a safer place".

He announced earlier that Britain would be taking cluster bombs out of service.

The final draft of the treaty went before delegates from a total of 109 countries on Wednesday afternoon.

See how a cluster bomb works

'Bomblets'

Cluster bombs have been used in countries including Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

They are made up of a big container which opens in mid-air, dropping hundreds of smaller individual sub-munitions, or "bomblets", across a wide area.

Countries like the US, India, Pakistan and Israel claim such munitions are highly useful on the battlefield, but opponents say that where the bomblets fail to explode they leave a deadly legacy for civilians.


A father relives the day his five-year-old son was killed by a cluster bomb
During the conference, delegates have heard first-hand accounts from survivors of cluster bomb attacks.

Speaking at Downing Street earlier, Mr Brown said: "I am delighted that the negotiations in Dublin have come to a successful conclusion and congratulate the Irish Government and all those involved.

"I am confident that this agreement is in line with British interests and values, and makes the world a safer place."

The BBC's Paul Adams said he understood the agreement would outlaw the two types of cluster munitions currently held by UK forces, but would not prevent countries from developing future generations of weapons based on the concept of sub-munitions.

And he said it appeared the UK hoped other countries not present in Dublin, notably the US, might be persuaded to accept the treaty later.

Using British soil

One stumbling block for the treaty could be the stockpile of cluster munitions the US military keeps at bases on British soil. It will be very difficult for the US to engage in operations with countries who have banned this weapon and continue to use them

Simon Conway
Cluster Munitions Coalition

The British representative in Dublin, John Duncan, said the UK would work with Washington to find a solution to the issue.

But in a statement, the Pentagon stood firm, saying: "While the United States shares the humanitarian concerns of those in Dublin, cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility, and their elimination from US stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk."

Some campaigners do believe countries like the US will change, however. They cite the landmine treaty of 1997 that was never signed by the US, Israel, Russia or China, yet those nations have not used landmines since it came into effect.

Simon Conway, from the Cluster Munitions Coalition, said there would now be "massive" pressure on the US.

"We think now that all of America's key allies have just renounced the weapon it will be very difficult for the US to engage in operations with countries who have banned this weapon and continue to use them," he said.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said the prime minister must make clear whether he would continue to allow the US to store its own cluster munitions on British territory.

"If he is serious about ending the scourge of these weapons, he must bring this abuse of the 'special relationship' to an end," Mr Davey said.
 
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US cluster bombs to be banned from UK

Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian,
Thursday May 29 2008

The US will no longer be able to stockpile cluster bombs at its military bases in Britain under government proposals for an international ban on the controversial weapons, it emerged last night.

As diplomats from more than 100 states unanimously passed a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs around the world, it emerged that British ministers are prepared to go further.

The government has agreed to scrap the two types of cluster weapon in the armoury of British forces, but it will also ask the US to get rid of its cluster bombs based here, and it will no longer ask for a "phasing out" period for its newest cluster munition - the M73, which is attached to Apache attack helicopters.

Both this weapon and the M85 - an Israeli-designed artillery shell used by British forces during the 2003 invasion of southern Iraq - will now be scrapped as soon as possible. Cluster weapons scatter "bomblets" across a wide area. Many of them fail to explode, later killing and maiming civilians long after the weapons are fired.

Gordon Brown yesterday described the treaty - due to be formally signed in Oslo in December - as "a major breakthrough". He added: "We will now work to encourage the widest possible international support for the new convention." In a statement released by Downing Street, he said: "I am delighted that the negotiations in Dublin have come to a successful conclusion, and congratulate the Irish government and all those involved. I am confident that this agreement is in line with British interests and values, and makes the world a safer place."

Final negotiations centred on the issue of "interoperability" - how far troops from countries signed up to the treaty should "cooperate" with troops from countries that have not, notably the US.

The US claimed last week that the treaty could jeopardise its participation in joint peacekeeping and disaster relief operations, as most American military units have cluster bombs in their armoury. The US is not party to the Dublin talks, but officials in London emphasised yesterday that it was the government's intention to ban cluster bombs at American bases in Britain.

Troops from Britain and other countries signing up to the cluster bomb ban would not be subjected to prosecution under international law if they were engaged in operations with those still free to use the weapons, the draft Dublin treaty is expected to say.

The Ministry of Defence was reluctant to abandon the UK's two cluster weapons, though some defence officials said yesterday that they were hardly going to be useful against small groups of Iraqi insurgents or Taliban fighters or in the battle for "hearts and minds".

Campaigners and human rights groups welcomed the UK government's ban on cluster weapons.

"The treaty will create a new international standard that will prevent the use of cluster munitions even by those countries that have not signed up," said Simon Conway, of Landmine Action UK. Along with the US, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan are not taking part in the Dublin talks.
 

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