DUBLIN-More than 100 nations, including Canada, formally agreed yesterday to ban the use of cluster bombs, but debate continued on loopholes that could benefit powers such as the United States, which refused to take part in talks on a ban.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged states to quickly sign and ratify the draft treaty, which was declared adopted after no delegation objected to the text formulated after almost two weeks of talks among the 111 nations here.
The United States, China and Russia have rejected the pact. Israel, which made widespread use of cluster bombs during its 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, has reiterated its intention to go on using them. India and Pakistan are also notable non-signatories of the treaty.
Cluster munitions contain "bomblets" that are scattered from planes or by artillery shells and that detonate like mines. The bomblets can cause indiscriminate injury, often lying unexploded for months or years until accidentally stepped on, often by children.
The accord's impact has been softened by a clause known as Article 21 that allows troops of a signatory state to co-operate with an ally that uses the weapons, such as the U.S.
"Others have referred to Article 21 as a loophole," Earl Turcotte, spokesperson for the Canadian delegation, told the gathering.
"We have referred to it as an essential element of legal protection to accommodate situations in combined operations which may be beyond our control."
Campaigners say they aimed at ensuring that countries avoid using the clause to allow non-signatories to stockpile the munitions or help in joint operations where cluster bombs were being deployed.
"I can't understand how you'd say there are big holes in the treaty," said Thomas Nash of umbrella group Cluster Munition Coalition.
The U.N. Development Program says cluster munitions have caused more than 13,000 confirmed injuries and deaths around the world, the vast majority of them in Laos, Vietnam and Afghanistan.
© Thomson Reuters 2008