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US defence of cluster bombs 'outrageous,' say campaign groups

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, July 8, IRNA
US-Cluster Bombs
Campaign groups have criticized the US defence on the use of cluster bombs and its 10-year delay in banning the munitions following last month's international agreement in Dublin.

Thomas Nash, international coordinator for the UK-based Cluster Munition Coalition, said the US Pentagon's policy was "completely outrageous."

"They are trying to find ways of addressing the concerns of their allies abroad and critics at home, but these measures fall well short. They are surprisingly weak even for the Americans," Nash said.

A new three-page Pentagon memo pledged that only after 2018, more than 99 per cent of the explosives in cluster bombs must detonate on impact.

The memo also defended the use of cluster bombs, claiming they "provide distinct advantages against a range of targets and can result in less collateral damage" than other weapons. Total elimination, it said, would be "unacceptable".

Campaigners suggested that the Pentagon's plan is motivated by an attempt to sell stocks of bombs with a high proportion of unexploded munitions that kill and maim innocent civilians. They also claim it highlights US isolation on the issue.

The US did not attend the Dublin talks, when 111 countries signed up to banning cluster bombs. Nash said that the only good thing was that the US were not going to have many countries to sell the weapons to.

Another UK campaign group, Handicap International, said that the plans indicated that the US was "under pressure to be seen to respond to the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions" but that its response was "quite meaningless."

"A large percentage of the problems caused over 40 years have been caused by cluster weapons claimed to have low failure rates and it is now widely accepted that no effective methods of testing failure rates exist," said Handicap's spokesman Rae McGrath.

"To wait another 10 years before banning cluster munitions has more to do with protecting existing stockpiles than with concern for the communities devastated by these weapons," McGrath said.

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