Cluster bomb ban talks open in Vienna
Representatives from more than 120 countries met Wednesday in the latest step towards a joint treaty to ban cluster bombs, which release hundreds of bomblets that scatter widely and can explode years later.
'In one year we have gone from a handful of countries to two thirds of the world's nations supporting a ban,' said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), in a statement ahead of the three-day conference.
'The tide has clearly turned against cluster munitions and we are confident a ban treaty will be signed in 2008.'
The conference is part of a Norwegian initiative launched in February when states agreed to conclude a new international ban treaty to be signed next year.
Some 83 nations have voiced their support for the move, but key countries such as China, Russia and the United States—the main makers of such munitions—remain opposed to an outright ban.
More than 140 civil society representatives from around 50 countries launched Wednesday's conference with a forum hosted by the CMC.
The Austrian parliament is due Thursday to adopt a law banning cluster bombs and forcing the country to destroy some 12,000 bombs stocked on its territory.
With the move, it will become the second country, after Belgium, to ban the weapons, whose victims are 98 percent civilian according to Handicap International.
The charity says it has collected records of nearly 14,000 casualties in at least 25 countries.
'Ten years ago today governments signed the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. They now have the chance to prevent an even greater humanitarian crisis by banning cluster munitions,' said Steve Goose, co-chair of the CMC.