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Voice of America

Movement to Ban Cluster Bombs Gains Momentum

Lisa Schlein

Cbu97 Cluster Bomb

Activists are urging governments to sign an
international treaty to ban the use, production and stockpiling of
cluster bombs one month from now in Oslo. The Cluster Munition
Coalition says global momentum is growing to put an end to these
weapons, which the group says mainly maim and kill civilians. Lisa
Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Group of Governmental Experts is meeting at the United Nations to
negotiate a treaty on cluster munitions. The agreement aims at
striking, what it calls, a balance between military and humanitarian

The Cluster Munition Coalition calls the process
flawed. It says the draft text being discussed will do nothing to stop
the death and destruction from cluster bombs. It says the text proposes
a 13 to 20-year transition period in which States would be able to
continue to use, produce, stock pile and trade these weapons.

the other hand, Coordinator of the Coalition, Thomas Nash, says the
Oslo treaty offers a holistic solution because it will ban an entire
category of weaponry before it gets out of control.

"It has been
largely preventive in nature," he said. "Unlike the landmine problem,
which spread to around 80, 90 countries before an international treaty
was agreed to prohibit that weapon. So far, cluster munitions have only
affected-I say only, it is already too much of a problem, but, only
around 32 States or territories have been affected. So, in many ways,
we are acting before the problem gets to the scale of landmines. Far
too many people have been killed or injured by this weapon. "  

Coalition says about 76 countries have stockpiled cluster bombs. It
says it is the billions of sub-munitions contained within these weapons
that create all the damage. It says the U.S., with nearly one billion
sub-munitions, possesses the biggest arsenal in the world.

says 34 countries produce cluster bombs. The biggest producers are the
United States, Russia and China. Others include Britain, Germany,
France, Israel and Brazil. It says the number of victims is unknown,
but may be in the hundreds of thousands.

About 100 countries are
expected to sign the Oslo Treaty next month. The U.S., Russia and China
are major holdouts. Co-Chair of the Coalition, Steve Goose, agrees this
is problematic. But, says it will not lessen the impact of the

"We believe in the power of the stigma against the
weapon," said Steve Goose. "We have seen this very clearly with
anti-personnel landmines. That same litany of States that we just ran
through-U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel-none of those
States are part of the landmine treaty either 10 years later. And, yet,
we see that the stigma of the weapon has had a very powerful deterrent
affect on those States."  

Goose says the United States has not
used, produced and traded in landmines since the treaty was signed.
And, it has destroyed millions of its stockpiles.

He says
almost none of the 39 countries that did not join the agreement have
used this weapon. He says Burma was the only State that used landmines
in any significant way last year.

He says even those States that
stay outside the treaty have to bend to the new standard of behavior
that is being established internationally.

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