Pakistan -- Saturday November 18, 2006 -- Shawwal 25, 1427
Norway leads to ban cluster bombs despite US objections
GENEVA: Norway said on Friday it would spearhead negotiations toward an international ban on cluster bombs, brushing aside reluctance from the US and others.
“We must now establish concrete measures that will put an end to the untold human suffering caused by cluster munitions,” Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement. “Norway will organise an international conference in Oslo to start a process toward an international ban on cluster munitions that have unacceptable humanitarian consequences.”
Stoere said Norway was forced to act because of the failure of an arms-control conference in Geneva this week to move against the weapons. The use of cluster bombs has provoked an international outcry, with calls for action coming from the European Union, the United Nations and the international Red Cross. In the conference Australia, Britain, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia and the United States all rejected beginning negotiations on cluster munitions, according to campaign groups. Instead, most of them backed a British suggestion that further discussion take place within the framework of the 1980 UN Convention on Conventional Weapons, known as CCW. Ronald Bettauer, who headed Washington’s delegation to the conference, said the US recognises cluster bombs are an important humanitarian issue, but was disappointed with Norway for inviting countries to negotiate the issue outside the CCW.
Norway’s move is the biggest step yet in the campaign against the bombs, which has picked up steam since Israel scattered hundreds of thousands of bomblets many left unexploded in southern Lebanon during its month long war against the Hizbullah. Cluster bomblets, which can be as small as a flashlight battery, are packed into artillery shells or bombs dropped from aircraft. A single container fired to destroy airfields or tanks and soldiers typically scatters some 200 to 600 of the mini-explosives over an area the size of a football field. The United Nations has estimated that Israel dropped as many as 4 million of the bomblets in southern Lebanon, with perhaps 40 per cent of the sub munitions failing to explode on impact. Those that do not explode right away may detonate later at the slightest disturbance, experts say. Children are especially vulnerable because the bomblets are often an eye-catching yellow with small parachutes attached.