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UK defends use of cluster bombs

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Dec 5, IRNA
UK-Cluster Bombs
The British government has defended its decision not to support a ban on cluster bombs at the recent review conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva.

Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders have urged Britain to support negotiation for an international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions that was led by Norway.

But in a written parliamentary statement published Tuesday, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said that he wanted to set out and explain the government's policy.

"We fully share widespread concerns about the humanitarian impact of these weapons. Our policy is designed to address these concerns," Howells said.

But he insisted that "compelling and legitimate conditions may occur when our armed forces need to use these weapons." If so, he said "we do so in strict accordance with international humanitarian law." The UK, which has used cluster bombs in Iraq and elsewhere, came under much criticism for not condemning the estimated one million cluster bomblets dropped by Israeli during its invasion of Lebanon during the summer.

Howells argued that at the review conference, the UK led an initiative to address the humanitarian impact of these weapons on the basis of consensus, including all major producers and users.

"We believe such an inclusive approach offers the best way forward to reduce the humanitarian impact of these weapons," he told MPs.

The UK initiative, the foreign minister insisted, was also consistent with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's call at the conference for action within the existing CCW framework.

Prior to the conference, the UK government announced plans to withdraw from service by the middle of next decade the so-called 'dumb' cluster munitions, which have numerous submunitions with explosive contents, and called on other countries to do the same.

Howells said that he was pleased to report that the UK's efforts at the review conference were rewarded in that it was agreed by consensus to hold urgent expert level discussions on the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions.

"This is an essential preliminary step before launching any negotiations on legally binding instruments to address the use of cluster munitions," he said.

This, he suggested was "not least because there has yet to be an internationally agreed definition of what constitutes a cluster munitions; let alone those that pose serious humanitarian hazards," for which Norway and others demanded an immediate ban.

The CCW experts will meet to consider the adequacy of existing international humanitarian law and whether it is being implemented diligently, when reporting back to the next CCW meeting of states parties in 12 months.

"In the coming year the UK will play an active role in the discussions, pushing for effective outcomes," Howell said.


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