A decade to clear cluster bombs in Lebanon

GENEVA (Reuters) - Clearing unexploded cluster bombs used by Israel in Lebanon during the month-long war, many of them U.S.-manufactured, could take 10 years, a British-based demining group said on Friday.


"We will be clearing unexploded cluster munitions from the rubble of the villages of southern Lebanon for another decade," said Simon Conway, director of Land mine Action. "That is the grim reality," he told reporters in Geneva.

Before the recent war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas in the south, demining teams were still clearing unexploded cluster munitions from Israel's 1978 and 1982 incursions into Lebanon, according to the advocacy group which is campaigning for an international ban on their use.

Such weapons continue to kill and maim civilians, especially children, for years after a conflict, it said.
The United Nations estimates that 100,000 cluster bomblets that failed to explode lie in Lebanon, with most landing during the final 72 hours of the war, which ended in an August 14 ceasefire.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has called Israel "completely immoral" for using them in residential areas.

"My understanding from the people I have spoken to in southern Lebanon is that the scale of cluster munition contamination is much greater than was seen in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq," said Conway, a former deminer in post-conflict zones including Kosovo, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Israel denies using the weapons illegally and accuses Hizbollah of firing rockets into Israel from civilian areas.
Three types of artillery-delivered cluster bombs were used by Israel in Lebanon -- two U.S.-made (M42 and M77) and one Israeli (M85), each with roughly the same failure rate of 40 percent, he said.

So far, the United Nations has found 400 strike sites where cluster bombs -- "a lot of them U.S.-manufactured" -- were used, said David Shearer, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon.

U.N. demining teams, who have destroyed 2,900 sub-munitions so far, predict it would take 12 to 15 months to clean up the cluster bombs.
"Currently one person per day is being killed and three people per day are being injured by ordnance of all types," Shearer told reporters.

Some 100 deminers -- from Sweden, Britain and New Zealand -- will be deployed by the end of the week, according to the U.N. official, who expected the U.N. force in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be more involved as troop levels rise.

Von: 01.09.2006, By Stephanie Nebehay

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