Vulnerable populations relieved from cluster bombs

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About 100 countries on Wednesday in Oslo, Norway, began endorsing an international treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs. The treaty described as “the most significant arms control and humanitarian treaty in a decade”, will prohibit the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs.

It is also believed that it would add a new chapter to international humanitarian law, as well as disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It was opposed by Russia and the U.S., which have the biggest stockpiles of cluster bombs.

An official of New York-based Human Rights Watch, Steve Goose, who spoke to UN reporters on Wednesday said: “The cluster bomb treaty will save countless lives by stigmatising a weapon that kills civilians even after fighting ends.”

Goose, who is the director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, expressed the hope that “President-elect Barack Obama will give the cluster ban treaty a top priority”.

“We will love to see Washington, Moscow, and the others sign the treaty, but we think the ban will so stigmatise cluster bombs that even those who do not join now will be deterred from using the weapon,” he said.

Needed change

“But, a U.S. decision to sign would certainly signal President Barack Obama’s commitment to multilateral action after the go-it-alone Bush era,” he noted.

The two-day Convention on Cluster Munitions signature ceremony marked the anniversary of the 1997 signing of the treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.

The “core group” that produced the treaty will be among the first signatories.

They include Norway, Austria, the Vatican, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Zambia.

In a message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged UN member states to sign on to the new cluster bombs treaty to save humanity.

He said that he would encourage all governments to sign and ratify the Convention “without delay”.

He stated: “Much work remains in mitigating the dreadful humanitarian suffering caused by cluster weapons,” and reiterated UN commitment to continuing those efforts.

The secretary-general also noted that the Convention indicated a significant and fundamental change in the position of many governments.

“And the signing conference also offers hope that countries can depart from other long-held positions in the light of new evidence and new understandings of their own interests,” Ban added.

The treaty will come into effect six months after 30 states have ratified it and deposited the instruments with the UN.

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