LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should lead the way on new
international controls over the use of cluster bombs, weapons
which are as dangerous as land mines, the Diana, Princess of
Wales Memorial Fund said at the launch of a campaign on Monday.
The fund, which helps land mine victims, launched the
campaign with other aid groups to coincide with the fourth
anniversary of Britain signing the Ottawa Land mine Treaty.
The treaty bans the use of anti-personnel mines and
requires clearance of mined land.
``It seems a timely moment to urge the UK government to take
a leadership role in rallying international opinion behind
international humanitarian law to also apply to cluster bombs,''
fund Chief Executive Andrew Purkis said.
Richard Lloyd, director of campaign group Landmine Action,
cited U.S. military figures showing that 600 cluster bombs had
been used in Afghanistan, each containing 202 small bomblets.
He said they were designed to kill within a range of 150
meters, pierce five inches of armor and set fire to material.
``When the container opens up and scatters the bomblets on
the ground, they are supposed to detonate on impact...our
experience is that a high proportion of them don't,'' he said.
``The conservative estimate is that 10 percent of these
bomblets fail to go off...If there's been 120,000 bomblets used
in Afghanistan already, then there's 12,000 of these lying
around waiting to explode at the slightest touch,'' he added.
Lloyd said he was receiving more and more reports of
casualties on the ground in Afghanistan, including one of a
10-year-old boy who mistook a bomblet for a food packet.
The bomblets are yellow, like the more than two million
food packets dropped by the United States, he said.
Cluster bombs and anti-vehicle mines kill and maim people
returning home to try and rebuild their lives, Lloyd said.
``What we are campaigning for is new international law to
require the users of explosive weapons to clear them up
afterwards. The aim is to get militaries to protect civilians
post-conflict as well as during a conflict,'' he said.
The Sandy Gall Appeal for Afghanistan, which provides mine
victims with artificial limbs, said cluster bombs added to what
the United Nations estimates are one and a half million
unexploded mines in the country.
Purkis said an upcoming review of the 1980 Inhumane Weapons
Convention at a U.N. conference on December 10-21 in Geneva was
an opportunity to address the problems of cluster bombs.
``That meeting could order an expert panel to prepare a new
protocol that would cover cluster bombs and other explosive
remnants, with a view to bringing them within the UN Convention
for the first time,'' he said.
``What is really important is that the state parties
gathered in Geneva feel the force of public opinion, feel that
this is a moral issue that people mind about. The recent use of
cluster bombs in Afghanistan highlights the problem because
these bombs are being dropped in our name, now, `` Purkis said.
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