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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 14:41 GMT
NGOs launch cluster bomb campaign
By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC correspondent at The Hague

Cluster bombs on an RAF Harrier in an RAF fact sheet
The NGOs want governments to sign a legally binding protocol
Non-governmental organisations from around the world have launched a campaign against cluster bombs.

NGOs estimate that at least 92 nations are threatened by the presence of unexploded bombs and other munitions.

The campaign launched at The Hague calls for a moratorium on cluster bombs, help for victims and an overall clean-up of explosive remnants of war.

It comes place ahead of negotiations in Geneva on a new protocol to the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Eighty NGOs are involved in the Cluster Munition Coalition CMC, including Landmine Action and Human Rights Watch.

Indefinite ban

Around 60 countries have cluster bombs in their arsenals.

A typical cluster bomb contains about 200 'bomblets', which spread over a wide area
Bomblets contain explosive armour-piercing charge. Their cases are designed to fragment into deadly shrapnel

The CMC says abandoned mortars, rockets and cluster bomblets claim thousands of lives during and long after armed conflict.

Afghanistan, northern Iraq and Sudan are among the most affected regions.

The CMC wants an indefinite ban on cluster bombs.

The coalition sees a draft protocol on conventional weapons as unacceptably weak.

'Deeply shocking'

Human Rights Watch says the bombs are not in direct breach of the Geneva Conventions, but the CMC aims to restrict their use under international law.

"In Iraq the coalition used huge numbers of cluster munitions in populated areas," Andrew Purkis, the chief executive of the UK-based Diana Princess of Wales Memorial said.

"That was deeply shocking to a lot of voluntary organisations who did not believe that the coalition would do that - and it's very dubious practice in terms of the Geneva Conventions," Mr Purkis said.

The CMC is calling for a moratorium on cluster bombs, and the alliance's next step is aimed at stopping the use of cluster bombs.

The new campaign is supported by several governments - including the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico.

The CMC says this backing is a sign that their fight against cluster bombs will be as successful as the international campaign against land mines.

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