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More Than 100 Countries Sign Cluster Bomb Ban

Representatives of more than 100 countries are in Oslo, Norway Wednesday to sign a treaty banning cluster bombs.

Norway, which has led efforts to ban cluster bombs, was the first to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, production, and sale of the weapons.

Next came Laos and Lebanon, both of which have experienced the lingering lethal effects of the munitions.

The United States, China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia are among countries refusing to sign the cluster bomb ban.

The U.S. State Department Tuesday said outlawing the bombs would put the lives of American troops and their coalition partners at risk.

Cluster bombs contain hundreds of smaller explosives that detonate over a wide area. Some of the explosives can fail to explode on impact and act as landmines, menacing civilian populations long after a conflict is over.

U.S. officials say the weapons are still useful, but that the Pentagon plans to phase out using current cluster bomb technology by 2018.

The State Department says it is concerned about the dangers unexploded bombs pose to civilians and says Washington has spent more than one billion dollars cleaning them up.

The group Human Rights Watch Tuesday appealed to President-elect Barack Obama to reverse Bush administration policy and make joining the cluster ban treaty a top priority.

Thirty countries must ratify the treaty for it to take effect.

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