France to reduce cluster bomb stocks

France announced on Friday that it would withdraw a type of munition that currently accounts for 90 percent of its cluster bomb stocks, as world representatives met in Dublin to discuss curbing use of such weapons.


The United States is trying to bully its allies into weakening a treaty banning cluster bombs, Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading a campaign against landmines, said on Friday.

Representatives of more than 100 nations are working on an agreement against the use of cluster munitions, although the United States, China and Russia are not participating. Opponents say cluster bombs are unreliable and indiscriminate.

The United States said on Wednesday the treaty could jeopardise U.S. participation in joint peacekeeping and disaster relief operations by “criminalising” military operations between countries that signed the ban and those that did not.

Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize together with her International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said genuine peacekeeping operations backed by the United Nations would not be affected by a global ban on cluster bombs.

“I hate to see countries like Canada for example, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, who were leaders in the movement to ban landmines, doing the dirty work of the U.S,” she said.

“They are trying to create a loophole big enough to fly a U.S. attack helicopter loaded with cluster munitions through it,” she told Reuters by telephone after attending a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Dublin.

France said in a statement it thought the talks were going well and announced it would withdraw a type of munition that accounted for 90 percent of its cluster bomb stocks.

“France is defending an unambiguous position at Dublin: the outlawing of all types of cluster bombs defined as unacceptable because they cause humanitarian damage,” the statement said.

Cluster munitions open in mid-air and scatter as many as several hundred “bomblets” over wide areas. They often fail to explode, creating virtual mine fields that can kill or injure anyone who comes across them—often curious children.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon earlier week told delegates in Dublin, where the treaty is being finalised, that the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs should be prohibited.

But campaigners say there had been pressure to remove a clause in the draft accord which would prohibit countries giving operational assistance to states using cluster munitions.

Williams, a U.S. citizen, said she was confident a global ban would be agreed next week, also helping to “stigmatise” the use of cluster bombs by non-parties to the treaty, similar to the ban on landmines, which was also not signed by Washington.

“The issue I have with the United States is that it is working overtime to try to influence the negotiations without having the wherewithal and courage to come here itself and do its own dirty work,” she said.

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