Oslo Conference Urges Cluster Bombs Ban

A gathering of 48 nations vowed to take the first step towards an international treaty to protect civilians from cluster bombs, with the world's leading users of the deadly weapon, the US and its key ally Israel.

Oslo Conference Urges Cluster Bombs Ban

"The time has come to agree that we need a new international instrument to ban cluster munitions," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

The objective was to reach agreement on a plan "by 2008," he added.

The international meeting is the first of a Norwegian government's initiative to agree a treaty to ban cluster bombs.

Addressing the conference, Austrian ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch announced a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs by his country's army.

"The council of ministers decided that Austria -- pending a future legally-binding international regulation -- already now declares a national moratorium renouncing any use of cluster bombs or cluster munitions," he said.

The ban would be upheld even if an international treaty did not see the light of day, he stressed.

Cluster bombs are designed to penetrate thick armor as well as to kill or maim enemy soldiers within several yards.

The bombs release small bomblets in midair that do not always explode on impact, which means that they can continue to kill innocent civilians years later.

An estimated 104,000 have been killed or injured since the bomb's invention - but these are only recorded cases.

The UN Development Fund has identified 23 countries affected by cluster bombs, where civilians lose limbs or are killed many years after wars have ended.

A recent report by Handicap International insisted that 98 percent of casualties from cluster munitions are non-combatants.

The umbrella group Cluster Munition Coalition, consisting of a number of humanitarian organizations, is hoping that the Oslo conference will translate into concrete action.

"We want this meeting to say that there will be a treaty in place by 2008," said CMC co-chair Simon Conway.

Representatives from six UN agencies and a coalition of NGOs were attending the two-day meeting.

UN talks failed in November to make progress towards the ban treaty rebuffed by some countries, such as Britain and the US.

Israeli Arsenal  


"Cluster munitions were used ... by Israel against civilians throughout Lebanon," Soufan told the conference. 

The Oslo meeting was shunned by Israel and the US, one of the main users of the deadly cluster bombs.

Absent Israel came under fire during the conference for killing and maiming thousands of innocent people by cluster bombs during its July-August onslaught against neighboring Lebanon.

"Cluster munitions were used ... by Israel against civilians throughout Lebanon," Lebanese ambassador Gebran Soufan told the conference.

"It is on record almost everywhere."

Soufan urged the conference to take a stand against the Israeli arsenal.

"Today the Israeli legacy consists of 1.2 million sub-munitions that need to be disposed of or destroyed."

The head of the Israeli army's Rocket Unit has revealed that the Israeli army rained Lebanon with more than one million cluster bombs during its 33-day war.

UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland stressed last August that it was "completely immoral ... that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict" when it was clear a UN resolution was about to end it.

The Bush administration has prepared a preliminary report to Congress on the way Israel misused American-made cluster bombs during its summer offensive over Lebanon.

The report said Israel may have violated agreements with Washington by dropping cluster bombs in populated areas of southern Lebanon.

Several current and former US officials have described the probe as cosmetic with Washington unlikely to ban the sale of cluster weapons to Israel, which now manufactures its own munitions.

Other countries opposing a ban include Britain, Canada, France, China, India and Russia.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16