Sat, Aug 26, 2006 - Page 6 News List

US checks cluster bomb claims

LEBANON WAR Reports that the Israeli army used the anti-personnel arms in the war against Hezbollah in violation of agreements are being investigated by Washington

AFP , WASHINGTON AND TEL AVIV

The US is investigating whether Israel broke secret agreements in its use of US-made cluster bombs in its attacks on Lebanon last month, the New York Times reported late on Thursday on its Web site.

Citing two unnamed government officials, the Times said the US State Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls launched the investigation this week based on reports that Israel used the anti-personnel cluster bombs in possible violation of agreements with the US over when it can use such weapons.

Cluster bombs scatter a load of small "bomblets" over a wide area, and remnants of these munitions have been found in many parts of southern Lebanon, the Times reported.

The UN Mine Action Coordination Committee reported on Thursday that it had confirmed 267 locations where cluster bombs struck in south Lebanon.

The Times said State Department officials confirmed the investigation was under way in reply to questions, quoting spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos as saying that the department is "seeking more information" regarding allegations of Israel's use of cluster bombs.

But the Times quoted unnamed officials as saying that Israel would not likely be found to have violated its agreements on cluster bomb use, which date back to the 1970s.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch reported last week that Israel had used artillery-fired cluster munitions in at least 10 locations in Lebanon.

"Because of their wide dispersal pattern, cluster munitions should never be used in populated areas," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said.

"The laws of war don't ban cluster munitions in all circumstances. But the use of cluster munitions in or near civilian areas violates the ban on indiscriminate attacks, because these weapons cannot be directed at only military targets," he added.

HRW noted that cluster bombs have a high "dud" rate which leaves dangerous bomblets behind that can linger as threats for years.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni yesterday ruled out any withdrawal from Lebanon until UN troop reinforcements arrive, during talks with Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis.

Livni ruled out any Israeli withdrawal, in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which stipulates that the Lebanese army deploy, supported by an international force, foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

She also underlined that UN peacekeepers needed to be deployed on the Lebanese-Syrian border to prevent weapon transfers to the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which is supported by Damascus and Tehran, Regev said.

The Greek foreign minister said Athens would send its own contingent to the UN force soon.

"Greece will participate with a frigate ... a helicopter and some special forces and we believe that this force has to develop in the area as soon as possible," Bakoyannis told reporters in Jordan before arriving in Israel.

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