MIDDLE EAST: In wake of Gaza war, refusal to OK cluster bombs ban (Middle East)
There is so much talk in the region on the use of weapons that endanger civilians, especially after the recent Gaza conflict.
On the ground, however, the vast majority of countries in the volatile Middle East have so far refused to sign an international treaty on cluster munitions, a type of deadly weapon, human rights groups say.
Cluster bombs put civilians in peril for years after an armed conflict because they leave behind unexploded ordnance in inhabited areas.
The weapons have been used in the past in countries such as Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Cluster munitions were massively dropped by Israel on Lebanon during its war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
In the Middle East and North Africa, only ...
... Lebanon and Tunisia have signed the international treaty that bans the use of the bombs, the New-York-based Human Rights Watch said in a news release issued Monday.
The treaty has been open for signatures in the United Nations since last month.
The human rights watchdog said that cluster munitions had contaminated large swaths of land in southern Lebanon with unexploded ordnance killing or wounding 218 civilians as well as 47 people who were trying to locate and remove them since the conflict ended.
Sarah Leah Whitson, a Human Rights Watch official, urged Arab nations to sign the agreement in order to put pressure on Israel not to use the bombs in the future:
Lebanon and Tunisia have recognized how important it is to free the world of these deadly weapons. ... No Arab state has used cluster bombs in the past 15 years, and they now should promise never to do so in the future and join this treaty. ... The more Arab states sign, the greater the stigma associated with using this weapon in the region and the harder it will be for Israel or any other state to use this weapon.
A total of 94 countries signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, Norway, in December.
Human Rights Watch pointed out that 13 countries in the region took part in the process that led to the creation of the convention, but have not yet signed: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Iran, Israel and Syria refused to participate in the meetings that paved the way to the convention, and also have refused to sign the agreement.
The agreement prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. It also requires the clearance of affected areas within 10 years and destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, and includes assistance provisions to help affected countries with clearance and victim assistance.
-- Raed Rafei in Beirut
Von: 26.01.2009, www.latimesblogs.latimes.com