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Victims Urge Quick Global Treaty Banning Cluster Bombs


Victims and opponents of cluster bombs are urging participants at an international conference to work quickly toward a global ban on the unpredictable weapon.

The victims, some with missing limbs, spoke Wednesday in Vienna, at a three-day cluster munitions conference hosted by the Austrian government. Some 130 countries were present. The United States, Britain, China, Russia and Israel were among countries that did not attend.

Ahead of the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member-states to eradicate the bombs, which he said are inhumane and cause "unacceptable harm to civilians."

In opening remarks, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik told attendees the international community has a moral obligation to ban the munitions.

Cluster bombs are fired by artillery or dropped from aircraft. A mechanized container then opens in mid-air, scattering hundreds of small bomblets over a wide area.

Critics say many of the clusters fail to detonate on impact and detonate weeks or months later, often when stepped on or toyed with by unsuspecting children.

In Lebanon last month, local media said a storm with walnut-size hail detonated scores of unexploded bomblets dropped nearly 18 months ago by Israeli forces battling Hezbollah guerrillas in the area. No injuries were reported.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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