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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 10:13 GMT
Global drive to ban cluster bombs
Cluster bomb in Lebanon
The use of cluster bombs in Lebanon focused world attention
An international conference is due to open in Norway aimed at banning the use of cluster bombs, despite the non attendance of the US, Russia and China.

The 48-nation meeting has been called by Norway after arms talks in Geneva last November failed to achieve progress towards a ban.

Cluster bombs usually consist of a large shell containing many small bombs that can cover a wide area.

Some fail to explode and endanger civilians years after conflicts end.

The UN estimates that Israel dropped up to four million cluster bomblets in southern Lebanon during last year's war.

Anti-cluster groups say that billions are still being stockpiled around the world.

They say children are often attracted to their small size and bright colours.

"What we have in Oslo is a historical process that could lead to a treaty," said Thomas Nash from the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Norway says it wants the weapons to be outlawed by 2008, but some countries, such as Britain and the US say cluster bombs have a legitimate place on the battlefield.

They say their use is already governed by international humanitarian law, and are urging the development of smart cluster munitions that can be better targeted and that do not leave behind many unexploded bombs.

The BBC's defence correspondent Rob Watson says given they are a very effective military tool a ban on cluster bombs is unlikely.

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26 Sep 06 |  Middle East


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