Representatives of more than 100 countries have approved a draft treaty to ban the global use of cluster bombs. Although the United States, China and Russia are not part of the agreement, campaigners hope they will eventually sign on. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.
The world's three largest military powers, China, Russia and the United States, along with other countries that have used cluster bombs such as Pakistan and Israel, were not represented at the conference in Dublin.
But Thomas Nash of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, an umbrella body campaigning for a ban on the weapons is hoping the Dublin deal will spell the end for their use.
"We believe that this treaty is going to stigmatize this weapon so completely and so strongly that countries such as the United States, Russia and China simply will not be willing to pay the political price of using them and facing the public opprobrium that will come with any use in the future," Nash said.
At the beginning of the conference, Britain was seen as one of the countries that would oppose a comprehensive ban. But during the meeting, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his government had issued instructions in support of the ban of all cluster bombs.
Mr. Brown said the agreement announced late Wednesday was in line with British interests and values, and makes the world a safer place.
A U.S. statement said, "While the United States shares the humanitarian concerns of those in Dublin, cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility, and their elimination from U.S. stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk."
Cluster munitions are deployed from the air or ground. They release dozens or hundreds of smaller bomblets and grenades. Many of them fail to detonate on impact and become anti-personnel mines that will kill and maim long after the conflict has ended.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of many humanitarian groups that campaigned for a total ban. The organization was represented in Dublin and its spokesman, Peter Herby, told VOA the ICRC has dealt first-hand with the consequences of cluster bombs in Indochina, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other places.
"We simply have seen too much damage, too much carnage among civilians caused by these weapons and we have decided it was time to intervene loudly and forcibly to ensure that they are simply eliminated, that they become prohibited just like chemical, biological weapons and anti-personnel land mines," Herby said.
The agreement brings to an end a process that began in Oslo, Norway in February 2007 when 46 nations agreed to prohibit cluster munitions. One-hundred-forty countries took part in subsequent meetings in Peru, Austria and New Zealand that saw the development of the treaty text.
Countries, including some not present in Dublin will sign the treaty in Oslo, in December. After signing, countries need to ratify it, usually through legislative approval for the treaty to be legally binding.