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U.S., Israel to change stance on cluster bombs - Japanese paper

RIA Novosti

19/06/2007 10:32 TOKYO, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - The United States and Israel are ready to start talks on reducing civilian casualties from the use of cluster bombs, a Japanese newspaper said Tuesday.

Washington and Tel Aviv will present their new approach to a ban on cluster bombs at meetings of the 100-country Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva on Tuesday, the Mainichi daily said, citing a U.S government source.

The UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which was concluded at Geneva on October 10, 1980 and entered into force in December 1983, seeks to prohibit or restrict the use of certain conventional weapons which are considered to cause unjustified suffering or that have indiscriminate effects on civilians.

Nearly 70 countries pledged support in May for a declaration calling for an international ban by 2008, but the United States, Israel, Russia, and China, the countries that possess the largest arsenals of cluster bombs, declined to back the initiative citing defense concerns.

Cluster bombs are air-dropped or ground-launched shells that eject multiple smaller submunitions. The most common types are intended to kill enemy personnel and destroy vehicles, but also pose a particular threat to civilians because they cover a very wide area and can wander off target, and they almost always leave behind a large number of unexploded bomblets.

The unexploded bomblets remain dangerous for decades after the end of a conflict.

Up to 300 people are still killed annually in Vietnam as a result of cluster bombs and other munitions left by the U.S. and South Vietnamese troops following the Vietnam War.

According to some sources, 16 civilians have been killed and 100 wounded in Lebanon by unexploded cluster munitions since the August 14 ceasefire in the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict. Israel reportedly dropped more than 4 million cluster bombs in southern Lebanon.

The week-long talks in Geneva at the level of technical experts precede a high-level meeting to review the CCW, which will be held in November also in Geneva.

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