Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dublin Treaty To Ban Cluster Bombs

Today in Dublin, Ireland, one-hundred-eleven nations agreed on a treaty to ban current types of cluster bombs and require the destruction of stockpiles within eight years. But the effectiveness of the treaty is in doubt considering the USA, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, and India did not take part in the talks.

Cluster bombs are fired by artillery or dropped from aircraft and scatter bombs across a large area to attack troops and vehicles simutaneously. The bombs often fail to detonate and when found later by civilians explode and kill long after they were left on the battlefield. These type of bombs have been devastating to farmers.

Ireland and other lead sponsors plan to unveil the treaty Friday after it is translated into several languages. Click here for the Irish draft.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin called the treaty "a real contribution to international humanitarian law." He said it "is a very strong and ambitious text which nevertheless was able to win consensus among all delegations." He is hoping the widespread support will put pressure on all the countries that did not participate.

In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the treaty, saying it was "in line with British interests and values, and makes the world a safer place."

Brown helped propel negotiators to a speedier deal by confirming earlier Wednesday that Britain would discontinue its use of two cluster munitions: one an Israeli-designed artillery shell, the other a U.S.-made rocket system for use on Apache attack helicopters. Britain previously had sought an exemption to continue using the helicopter-based weapon in particular.

Nonetheless, the draft treaty contains several concessions sought by the United States — a key absentee that still cast the biggest shadow over deliberations.

The pact would allow countries that sign the treaty to keep cooperating militarily with those that do not. Earlier drafts sought to prohibit such cooperation, but the U.S. and its NATO allies opposed that idea on the grounds it would complicate joint peacekeeping operations.

That section — nearly at the end of the 18-page document — makes it likely U.S. forces based in Europe will be able to maintain stocks of cluster bombs even if nations like Britain sign the treaty.

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