Brown Tells Defense Ministry to Dump Cluster Bombs (UK)
May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ordered the Ministry of Defence to review its weapons stocks and remove any remaining cluster bombs, saying they're a danger to civilians.
"The prime minister has issued instructions to our negotiators in Dublin that we should work intensively to ban cluster bombs,'' Brown's spokesman, Michael Ellam, told reporters in London today. "The prime minister has asked the MoD to assess the remaining weapons in use to ensure there's no risk to civilians.''
Diplomats from more than 100 countries are meeting in Dublin to try to negotiate a treaty aimed at banning the weapons. Cluster munitions are canisters packed with as many as 650 small bombs that are dropped from aircraft and are supposed to scatter and explode on impact.
In the past, the government has emphasized the need to "`achieve a balance'' between military capability and civilian risk. Britain has already got rid of some types of cluster bomb. It still keeps two, the L20A1 M85, last used in Iraq in 2003, and the CRV-7, which British troops in Afghanistan are equipped with, though they haven't used it in combat.
As many as 40 percent of the sub-munitions fail to detonate and can cover an area of several thousand square meters, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Campaigners welcomed the move. "They've previously been saying they should keep these weapons because they don't cause humanitarian problems,'' Richard Moyes, Policy Director of Landmine Action, said in a telephone interview from Dublin. "It's definitely showing positive movement.''
On May 19, The Times newspaper carried a letter from nine former British military commanders calling for the government to scrap its stocks.
"This represents an opening of the door from the U.K.,'' said Mark Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, in an interview from the negotiations in Dublin. "The U.K. is one of the most critical nations here. They're the primary user of cluster munitions at this conference, they're a key ally of the U.S. and they're a member of NATO.''
Garlasco listed the U.S. and Israel as the world's two largest users of cluster munitions. Neither is represented in Dublin.
The CRV-7 is made by Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Bristol Aerospace Ltd., a division of Canada's Magellan Aerospace Corp. The L20A1 M85 is made by Israel Military Industries Ltd.
Von: 21.5.2008, www.bloomberg.com, by Robert Hutton