Countries head to Norway for cluster bomb talks
Canadian delegation includes officials from Foreign Affairs and National Defence Canada will attend a conference in Norway this week aimed at building support for an international ban on the use of cluster bombs.
More than 40 countries are expected at the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Earl Turcotte, director of the mine action and small arms team for Foreign Affairs, is leading the Canadian delegation. It includes officials from Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence.
The meeting is an effort by the Norwegian government to start an international campaign against cluster bombs, which reportedly kill and maim thousands of civilians each year. Many of those killed are children.
Ambra Dickie, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, said the conference is an "exploratory meeting" that Canada hopes will lead to the development of a "legal instrument" that will prohibit the use of cluster bombs around the world.
Norway organized the meeting after UN talks, officially called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, in November 2006 failed to result in negotiations on a ban.
According to a news release issued by the Norwegian government, cluster bombs cause "unacceptable human suffering" that can be prevented.
"Certain types of cluster munitions have such serious consequences that their use cannot be justified," it reads.
Cluster bombs are shells that eject many small submunitions or bomblets. They can be packed into artillery shells or dropped from aircraft. A single shell can scatter from 200 to 600 mini-explosives over a wide area.
The International Red Cross has said the bombs are unreliable and inaccurate, causing indiscriminate deaths long after they are dropped because they often fail to detonate.
Cluster bombs hit civilians hardest, Norwegians say
The Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry said cluster bombs hit civilians the hardest.
"Certain types of weapons, such as landmines and cluster munitions, affect civilians particularly severely, both during and after armed conflicts," it said.
"Agricultural areas cannot be cultivated without risk to life and health, and refugees are unable to return to the homes from which they fled."
It said some countries, such as Laos and Vietnam, continue to have problems with cluster bombs more than 30 years after they were dropped in their territories.
The bombs have also killed or injured civilians in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, 23 developing countries are currently affected by cluster bombs.
Norway believes a ban on cluster bombs is possible given that the world was able to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which bans the use of landmines. A total of 152 countries have ratified the treaty.
"Anti-personnel mines are now hardly used, large areas have been cleared of mines, and thousands of mine victims have been helped," Norway's Foreign Affairs Ministry website says."Norway believes that a corresponding international ban on cluster munitions can be achieved through a similar process."
Von: 21.02.2007 www.cbc.ca