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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Call for cluster bomb ban

Cluster bombs were used in the Gulf and Kosovo conflicts
Disarmament campaigners are calling for a global moratorium on the manufacture and use of cluster bombs.

The danger and destruction caused by cluster bombs dropped from Nato and British aircraft is outlined in a report by the UK Working Group on Landmines, which has called for a ban on the weapons.


If you drop bombs of any kind, some of them will fail to go off. What you then have to do is try to clear the area

John Spellar, Defence Minister
Cluster bombs, widely used in the Gulf and Kosovo, are dropped from aircraft, opening to scatter up to 150 bomblets over a wide area.

In Kosovo the bombs were blamed for the deaths and injuries of 200 civilians and the deaths of two British soldiers.

They are typically used in attacks against vehicles or troops in entrenched positions but many do not explode on impact, and present a long-term hazard to civilians trying to return to their homes or farmland.

Moratorium

Director of the UK Working Group on Landmines Richard Lloyd said: "The unexploded bomblets effectively turn into landmines, ready to detonate on contact, causing death and injury to civilians even many years after the war has ended.

Cluster bomb facts
The RAF uses the RBL755 weapon which releases 175 'bomblets'
Approximately 500 cluster bombs were dropped during the Kosovo campaign
Manufacturer's failure rate is 5% Other estimates put the figure at 10%
7,400 cluster bombs cleared in Kosovo

"As many are brightly-coloured and the size of a drinks can, they are particularly attractive to children."

He said because the weapons also failed to distinguish between soldiers and civilians their use was "indiscriminate and in clear breach of international humanitarian law".

Campaigners now want to see a moratorium on cluster munitions.

The report published on Tuesday suggests that cluster bombs are far less reliable than their makers suggest, especially when dropped from higher altitudes.

Military awareness

Nato governments and their military commanders generally insist that cluster bombs remain an effective and useful weapon in certain circumstances.


As many are brightly-coloured and the size of a drinks can, they are particularly attractive to children

Richard Lloyd

The Royal Air Force in the UK says it is not going to remove cluster bombs from its inventory.

However, it has already ordered more accurate anti-armour weapons that can be precisely targeted against specific vehicles in order to reduce civilian casualties as far as possible.

Defence Minister John Spellar told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "These are not landmines under the international convention, which this government put a huge amount of effort into securing and campaigning for around the world.

"I find it slightly surprising that this group is focusing on cluster bombs, when so many countries have not signed up to the anti-landmine convention.

"If you drop bombs of any kind, some of them will fail to go off. What you then have to do is try to clear the area."

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See also:

22 May 00 | Europe
Kosovo bombs kill boy
17 Feb 00 | Europe
Nato 'stays until Milosevic goes'
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