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Cluster bomb ban comes into force
Geneva, AUG 1 (Agencies):
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Published on 1 Aug. 2010 11:40 PM IST
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A global treaty which bans the production and use of cluster bombs has come into force.
The treaty is only binding for countries that have signed and ratified it, and so far does not include the US, Russia, China and Israel.
The treaty has been signed by more than 100 countries including Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Germany.
Cluster munitions contain a number of smaller bomblets, which are designed to cover a large area and deter an advancing army.
But campaigners have long argued that they target civilians, because most unexploded bomblets litter the ground like landmines long after a conflict is over.
Cluster bombs are estimated to have killed nearly 500,000 people worldwide.
But Daniel Goure, from the American think tank the Lexington Institute, says the US will never stop using cluster bombs.
“One can either do it [lay bombs] by deploying a large number of individual munitions, or by using perhaps only a single weapon with cluster munitions,” he said.
“These munitions have proven themselves to be militarily extraordinarily effective in a number of circumstances.”
Humanitarian groups have welcomed the global ban.
Red Cross spokesman Peter Herby says the bomblets frequently fail to explode and lie dormant for many years.
“The scale of civilian suffering that was pointless - because most of it was after the conflict - is clearly unacceptable,” he said.
“It’s unacceptable in law, it’s unacceptable morally and it’s unnecessary militarily. To see a weapon that causes more injuries after a conflict than during the conflict - there’s obviously something wrong.”
Pope Benedict XVI hailed the ban and urged all countries to sign up. “My first thoughts go to the numerous victims who have suffered and continue to suffer serious physical and moral damage ... because of these insidious weapons,” the pope said after leading the weekly Angelus prayer.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “This new instrument is a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas, and will help us to counter the widespread insecurity and suffering caused by these terrible weapons, particularly among civilians and children.”
The agreement “highlights not only the world’s collective revulsion at these abhorrent weapons, but also the power of collaboration among governments, civil society and the United Nations to change attitudes and policies on a threat faced by all humankind,” Mr Ban said.
The United States alone accounts for cluster bombs or shells containing around 800 million bomblets, according to the Cluster Munition Coalition, citing US congressional records.
The munitions split open before impact and scatter multiple -- often hundreds -- of smaller submunitions, or plastic bomblets, the size and shape of a tennis ball or a table lighter over a wide area.
Many of them fail to explode immediately and can lie hidden for years, killing and maiming civilians, including children, even decades after the original conflict is over in countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
In Laos, which will host the first meeting of the convention in November, some 300 people are still hit every year by cluster bombs dating to the Vietnam war, according to the coalition.
How a cluster bomb works
1. The cluster bomb, in this case a CBU-87, is dropped from a plane and can fly about nine miles before releasing its load of about 200 bomblets.
2. The canister starts to spin and opens at an altitude between 1,000m and 100m, spraying the bomblets across a wide area.
3. Each bomblet is the size of a drink can and contains hundreds of metal pieces. When it explodes, it can cause deadly injuries up to 25m away.

 
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