No Agreement Yet on Cluster Bomb Ban
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - More than 120 nations trying to negotiate a treaty banning most cluster bombs failed to reach agreement in talks that ended Friday in New Zealand but achieved good progress, officials said.
By RAY LILLEY
"Intense negotiations" will be needed during the final round of talks on the pact in May to create a treaty banning the use, production, trade and storage of cluster bombs that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, said chief British negotiator John Duncan.
New Zealand Disarmament Minister Phil Goff was upbeat about this week's talks, saying all parties involved had agreed to continue the process despite the lack of unanimity.
Eighty-two countries have signed up to attend the final round of talks in Dublin, Ireland.
"My anticipation ... is that we will get a treaty signed in Dublin," Goff said.
The United States is not taking part in the negotiations, saying it opposes a ban because of the weapons' military utility.
Goff said the five days of talks in the New Zealand capital of Wellington made more progress toward banning dangerous cluster munitions than five years of negotiations - which so far have produced nothing - under U.N. auspices in Geneva.
However, the issues that remained unresolved were broad and fundamental to an agreement.
They include definitions of what cluster weapons are and which types should be exempted from any ban, said Grethe Ostern, spokeswoman for the international activist group Cluster Munitions Coalition.
Still, Ostern hailed the meeting outcome as "a historic step ... toward completion of a treaty banning cluster munitions and (their) humanitarian impact."
The world "is closer than ever to having a treaty that will save lives for decades to come," she told reporters.
Ostern said there was general agreement on banning around 95 percent of cluster munitions in the stockpiles of countries that attended the talks. She gave no further details.
Forty-one of the world's 76 states that stockpile cluster munitions took part in the negotiations, along with a majority of the weapons' producers.
However, major producers such as the U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel have not joined the process and had no observers at this week's conference.
The United States "shares in the humanitarian concerns that have been raised about cluster munitions but is opposed to any ban on them because of their demonstrated military utility," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Janine Burns said in a statement Thursday.
Cluster bombs are built to explode above the ground and release thousands of small bomblets primed to detonate on impact.
Combat results show that 10 percent to 40 percent of the bomblets fail to go off on impact but can later explode, killing and maiming civilians.
New Zealand negotiator Don MacKay, who chaired the talks, said the meeting had achieved "a narrowing of differences" on many issues. He did not elaborate.
"There is a common commitment by participants ... to do something about this humanitarian problem," MacKay said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch spokesman Steve Goose said the conference "has been a rousing success," with some "problematic states moving in the right direction."
"We're confident we're going to end up ... with an extraordinarily comprehensive and strong treaty," he said.
Von: http://ap.google.com, 22.02.2008