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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 18:28 GMT
Britain bans 'dumb' cluster bombs
Cluster bombs on an RAF Harrier, taken from an RAF fact sheet
The UK has used cluster bombs in Iraq and Kosovo
The UK is to stop using cluster bombs that lack self-destruct mechanisms to reduce the risk of civilian casualties, Defence Secretary Des Browne has said.

The weapons, known as "dumb" cluster bombs, will be withdrawn immediately and destroyed, said Mr Browne.

He said the move meant the UK was the first world power to abandon their use.

But campaigners called on the government to scrap all cluster bombs, including so-called "smart" ones which have the capacity to self destruct.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says smart cluster bombs are legitimate weapons with significant military value.

Cluster bombs are shot from artillery or rocket ground systems or dropped from aircraft and disperse hundreds of smaller munitions, known as bomblets.

Unexploded bomblets can lie dormant for years until they are disturbed.

As long as the UK retains smart cluster bombs, the unacceptable threat to civilians will remain
Simon Conway
Landmine Action

In February, at a conference in Norway, the UK, which has used cluster bombs in Kosovo and Iraq, joined 45 other nations in pledging to ban cluster bombs by 2008.

The US has rejected a ban.

In a written statement to MPs, Mr Browne said: "It is our duty to make sure our forces have the equipment they need to do the job we ask of them.

"At the same time, we should strive to reduce civilian casualties to the minimum.

"Military commanders are first to point out that modern conflicts are, in large part, about winning hearts and minds.

"This is an important decision.

"We are doing this because it is the right thing to do. We hope that other countries will now follow suit."

'Unacceptable threat'

The MoD said the UK would immediately stop using the RBL 755 aerial-delivered cluster munition and the Multi Launch Rocket System M26 munition.

More than 28 million sub-munitions will be destroyed, said the MoD.

Simon Conway, of the Cluster Munition Coalition, said the UK must ban all cluster bombs.

"Smart means precision guided and the cluster munitions that the UK wants to retain are not precision guided.

"As long as the UK retains them, the unacceptable threat to civilians will remain."

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Nick Harvey said: "All cluster munitions are indiscriminate and there are serious concerns that even so-called smart munitions have a significant failure rate, making them a dangerous remnant of conflict."

Pledge to seek cluster bomb ban
23 Feb 07 |  Europe
Benn calls for cluster bomb ban
05 Nov 06 |  UK Politics


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