Sat, Feb 24, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Norway urges all nations to work on cluster bomb treaty

AP , OSLO

Norway urged representatives from 48 nations to join a global effort against cluster bombs by committing to draft a treaty that would ban the weapons next year, despite opposition from the world's top military powers.

The two-day conference was snubbed by some key arms makers -- including the US, Russia, and China -- but organizers said other nations needed to forge ahead to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster posed by unexploded cluster munitions.

"Our hope is to get as many countries as possible to join, and it will remain open," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told reporters on Thursday.

Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles, which scatter them over vast areas, with a percentage failing to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years after conflicts end until they are disturbed, often by civilians, a lot of times by children.

Norway hopes the treaty would be similar to one outlawing anti-personnel mines.

A copy of a draft declaration obtained calls on conference delegates to "conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument" to ban cluster bombs.

The treaty would "prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians."

It also urged countries to consider banning such weapons before the treaty takes effect. Norway has already done so, while Austria announced a moratorium on cluster bombs at the start of the conference.

The US, China and Russia oppose the ban and did not send representatives to the meeting. Australia, Israel, India and Pakistan also did not attend.

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