Pope Benedict XVI has urged diplomats at an international conference in Dublin to sign a treaty banning cluster bombs, which have killed or wounded thousands of civilians.

Benedict said Sunday it is "necessary to correct the errors of the past." He also prayed for the victims of the bombs and their families.

Cluster bombs are fired from the ground or dropped from planes. They explode in mid-air and scatter hundreds of smaller bombs over a wide area. The unexploded small bombs can stay hidden for months before blowing up.

The United Nations says the bombs have killed or wounded many children who step on them or pick them up mistaking them for toys.

Delegates from more than 100 countries are meeting in Dublin for two weeks starting Monday, looking to finalize a treaty outlawing cluster bombs. But representatives from nations that build the weapons - including the United States, Israel, Russia and China - are not participating.

The U.N. says most cluster bomb victims are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon and Vietnam

Lebanese news reports say a hailstorm last year set off a large number of unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs fired by Israeli forces fighting Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. No injuries were reported from delayed the explosions.

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