Cluster Bombs Banned for UK Armed Forces

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BBC News

Cluster Bombs Banned for UK Armed Forces

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British armed forces are being banned from using cluster munitions under a law passed by the House of Commons.

The
law comes after the UK in 2008 signed an international convention
outlawing the weapons - which have maimed and killed thousands of
people.

The bombs were withdrawn from use by the UK in May 2008 and stockpiles are due to be destroyed by the end of 2013.

First developed in World War II, they contain smaller "bomblets" designed to cover a large area and deter armies.

The
Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill received the backing of all
parties as it received an unopposed third reading in the Commons,
having already completed its passage through the Lords.

It now goes for Royal Assent.

'Small step'

Cluster
munitions eject dozens, sometimes hundreds, of tiny bomblets which can
be dispersed to cause explosions over a wide area.

However,
sometimes they do not detonate immediately, which means they pose a
danger to vehicles or people, often children, who come into contact
with them at a later date.

Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant said understanding of the
horrific impact of the weapons had led to a change of political mood in
favour of their prohibition.

He said a third of the people affected by them were children and at least 60% of those killed or maimed had been civilians.

The bill allows the UK to enforce prohibitions set out in the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The convention prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs.

Non-signatories include the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan and Israel.

Shadow
foreign office minister David Lidington said at a time when there were
concerns about nuclear proliferation "it is good this evening to be
able to mark a small step towards ridding the world of at least one
particularly unpleasant category of lethal weapons".

Liberal
Democrat spokesman Edward Davey called on the government to work on
clearing land where British forces had dropped cluster bombs and to
press for non-signatories to support the convention.

But concerns were raised about how the law would affect UK troops working alongside non-signatories in Afghanistan.

 

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