The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on the international community to immediately stop the use of cluster bombs and urged countries possessing them to destroy their stockpiles.
Red Cross official Philip Spoerri told reporters in Geneva the time has come for strong international action on the issue. He said his organization will formally issue its appeal at a conference reviewing compliance with a 1980 United Nations document on Conventional Weapons that opens in the Swiss city Tuesday. He also announced plans for a conference of experts next year to discuss banning cluster weapons.
The Red Cross official noted that cluster bombs left over from conflicts over the past four decades continue killing and maiming civilians in Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Serbia. He expressed particular concern over those dropped by Israeli aircraft in recent fighting in Lebanon.
In a statement issued ahead of Tuesday's review meeting, the United States urged the session to focus on implementing existing laws rather than negotiating new rules on cluster munitions or other explosive remnants of war.
Cluster bombs release smaller munitions when they explode, in order to spread destruction over large surface areas. Some of the smaller bombs do not go off immediately, and can end up wounding or killing people who come across them years later.