Allied forces were accused by human rights organizations yesterday of using cluster bombs in populated areas of Baghdad and caring more about protecting oil reserves than the welfare of the Iraqi people.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the United States Central Command should respond to a report that it had admitted using the bombs in urban areas of Baghdad when attacking Iraqi artillery and missile systems.
The US magazine Newsday said several children were killed or injured, adding that use of the bombs had been anonymously confirmed by a Central Command spokeswoman. Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, said it was "a serious charge and the Pentagon must respond publicly to it".
In London, Amnesty International accused Britain and America of working harder to protect Iraqi oil wells than to protect the Iraqi people. It said the Allies must restore law and order in Iraq to live up to claims that the war was meant to protect human rights. It also called on the United Nations to deploy human rights monitors.
Irene Khan, general secretary of Amnesty, said "a singular lack of advanced planning by the coalition" had been responsible for the failure to deal with the wave of lawlessness that had swept Iraq's major cities.
She added: "There seems to have been more preparation to protect the oil wells than to protect hospitals, water systems or civilians. The first taste of the coalition's approach to law and order will not have inspired confidence in the Iraqi people."
Amnesty called on the United Nations to deploy human rights monitors in Iraq as soon as possible, adding that it should establish a commission to investigate abuses both under the previous regime and during the conflict. There should also be effective vetting of any former police officers or others volunteering to work for the new administration.
Ms Khan said: "We have all noticed how the human rights of the Iraqi people have been used as a selective and convenient cover to undertake military action. Now it is pay-up time."
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd