Aust signs anti-cluster bomb declaration
On the final day of negotiations at an international conference in New Zealand, the so-called 'Wellington Declaration' on the use of cluster bombs has been signed. The conference has attracted representatives from 122 countries, and more than 170 anti-landmine lobby groups.
Jody Williams - who received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work against landmines and has taken part at the Wellington conference - has welcomed today's result.
"We're extremely pleased by the outcome of the conference," she said.
"The Cluster Munition Coalition has done an outstanding job bringing the pressure of civil society to bear on governments that are here - to get them to pay attention to our core aim, which is to ban cluster bombs on humanitarian grounds.
"It's not anti-military, it's pro-humanity."
Earlier in the week, Ms Williams accused Australia of trying to water down the proposed treaty.
Australia had argued that parts of a treaty could make it difficult for the military to work cooperatively with countries like the United States, which are unlikely to sign up.
It also called for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to be allowed to maintain supplies of cluster munitions for training and research purposes.
Ms Williams says while the Australian Government has now given its support, it is still holding out on some aspects.
"The change Australia and a handful of others are asking for is in regard to what I have called interoperability. That simply means that if Australia, the UK, other countries like that ban cluster munitions and then they engage in joint operations with the United States, they don't have to worry about being held legally liable if they engage in using or assisting the US in using a banned weapon," she said.
"We are saying that is just patently unacceptable.
"If you ban a weapon, you have to ban it in all circumstances."
The Wellington Declaration is a step towards an international treaty banning the deadly weapons, which will be negotiated in Dublin in May.
Lobby groups want the legally binding treaty to ban the production, use and stockpiling of cluster munitions.
James Turton is the mine action adviser at AustCare and a member of the new Cluster Munition Coalition of Australia.
"In endorsing the Wellington Declaration, the Australian Government has committed themselves to negotiations in Dublin to formulate the treaty to ban cluster munitions," he said.
"It's very significant, and this is what the society wanted from day one.
"The Australian Government needs to take part in the negotiations at Dublin so that then they can then go on and sign the declaration.
"If they didn't endorse the Wellington Declaration today, they would have to go to Dublin as observers."
Mr Turton says Australia has also called for the definition of cluster bombs to be narrowed.
He says the conference has agreed to thrash out the outstanding issues in Dublin.
"What we're pushing for is a total ban of cluster munitions within that formulation of the definition. Anything that is not defined as a cluster munition therefore is outside the prohibition," he said.
"But what a number of states, including Australia, are trying to do is to get munitions like sensor-fuse cluster munitions to be exempt, and the problem with this is that there is no concrete evidence behind the effectiveness and reliability of sensor-fuse cluster munitions.
"This is our concern."
But Mr Turton says it is a significant step that Australia will now be at the negotiating table.
"This is a humanitarian treaty, in essence, so [the] Australian Government, as it adheres to international humanitarian law, really needs to take this into consideration because it's an enormous humanitarian issue," he said.
Von: www.abc.net.au, 22.02.2008