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Britain tries to weaken UN deal on cluster bombs http://www.guardian.co.uk/military/story/0,11816,985136,00.html Owen Bowcott Thursday June 26, 2003 The Guardian Britain and the United States are attempting to weaken the provisions of an international treaty requiring belligerents to clear up unexploded cluster bombs after the end of any conflict, according to the group Landmine Action. Talks have been going on for 10 days in Geneva to reach consensus on a protocol under the United Nations convention on conventional weapons. Draft proposals would oblige countries to pay for the safe destruction of cluster bombs they had used during a war. Richard Lloyd, the director of Landmine Action, said yesterday: "Rather than adopt a clear obligation to clear up the mess, the UK [delegation] is suggesting it should 'cooperate' in addressing the problems that unexploded munitions cause. "We are disappointed the UK are failing to take a lead in this issue. Britain is quite isolated from other European countries over it. [The UK wording] would not make the difference to stop people being blown up after wars. "The British position in Geneva is contrary to the impression left by ministers in parliament that that they would work positively to achieve an effective, legally binding protocol. They have been arguing instead for a weaker language in certain key articles." The US, Mr Lloyd said, had been even more resistant to calls for a legal duty. "The biggest problem is the United States," Mr Lloyd said. "We hope they will change their view, but at present they want a voluntary declaration [of intent to remove cluster bombs] rather than having a duty imposed on them. "The negotiations are by consensus, so it looks likely there will be an agreement at the end of the week to adjourn for further talks in November." The Ottawa Treaty on landmines already requires states which plant mines to remove them after a conflict. As well as unexploded cluster bombs, the new protocol would also cover hand grenades and other explosive devices. Landmine Action is one of the main groups campaigning on the issue, and has estimated that US and UK forces used around 300,000 cluster bomb sub-munitions, or "bomblets", on Iraq in the war earlier this year. A significant number failed to explode. Cluster bombs are usually used against troop concentrations. British aircraft dropped 66 cluster bombs, each containing 147 bomblets, and fired 2,000 artillery shells which each contained 49 bomblets. US forces dropped around 1,200 cluster bombs. UN agencies have estimated that hundreds of Iraqi children have been killed or injured since the end of the fighting from picking up unexploded shells and bomblets. Landmine Action is launching a report today on the international extent of the problem. It says at least 92 countries are threatened by unexploded cluster bombs or other explosive remnants of war. In 57 of these countries, new casualties from the leftovers of conflict were reported in the period January 2001-June 2002. The Foreign Office said last night that the UK fully supported the new protocol and was working for a formulation that would contain both legally-binding measures and "best practice" guidelines. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk