Cluster Bombs Attacked by Victims

Countries affected by cluster bombs most recently used in Lebanon met in Belgrade Tuesday for an international conference to push for a ban on the lethal weapons.
The first meeting to bring together most countries affected by cluster bombs aims at ensuring that a new treaty will include victims’ concerns.

“The rights and needs of victims of cluster munitions must be at the heart of the new international treaty to ban these weapons,” said Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), at the opening of the three-day conference in the Serbian capital.

Cluster bombs — which can scatter several hundred unexploded sub-munitions over areas the size of four football fields in one shot — cause “havoc, death and injury long after conflicts,” Nash told reporters.

“They are the conventional weapon that stands out as the most in need of new rules.”

He pointed to the extensive civilian deaths and injuries inflicted in conflicts where such bombs have been used.

Twenty three of the 26 countries where cluster bombs are known to have been used were present at the conference. They have also been used in five other regions.

The bombs were most recently used during Israel’s war with Hizbullah in Lebanon last year, in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2001-2002.

The conference was initiated by the government of Serbia, itself still affected by cluster bombs dropped during NATO’s 1999 air war against the regime of late president Slobodan Milsevic over Kosovo.

“We know what it means to live through cluster bomb attacks and the consequences of unexploded sub-munitions,” said Branislav Kapetanovic, a Serbian clearance expert who lost both legs and arms while working in 2000.

“We want our governments to take the lead in the ban process to prevent other countries, and other innocent people, from suffering what we have suffered,” he said in a statement.

The Belgrade gathering is part of the so-called Oslo Process launched in the Norwegian capital in February 2006 and aims at concluding a treaty by next year.

The process aims at banning the weapon, and placing obligations on states to support victims, clear up ordnance left over from conflicts and destroy weapon stockpiles.

China, Russia and the United States, the largest manufacturers of cluster bombs, oppose the ban.

“Fortunately, a growing number of governments have realized that this problem needs a solution and that this solution needs to happen now,” Nash said, adding that 81 nations have now backed the CMC initiative.(AFP-Naharnet)

Beirut, 02 Oct 07, 19:22

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