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Ban Ki-Moon Issues Call To Eliminate Cluster Bombs

Secretary-General Ban issues call to eliminate scourge of cluster munitions

19 May 2008 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed for the creation of a new global pact to rid the world of cluster munitions, deadly weapons which he described as "particularly indiscriminate and unreliable."

The devices are "inherently inaccurate and often malfunction," and they pose "a very real danger to civilians, both at the time of use and long after conflicts have ended," Mr. Ban said in a video message to the two-week Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, which opened today in Dublin.

More than 100 governments have converged in the Irish capital to hammer out an international treaty to ban the weapons, a process which began last February in Oslo.

The Secretary-General pointed to breakthroughs in efforts to further disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, including the mine ban treaty and the recent protocol on explosive remnants of war.

"But the quest for a safer world continues," the Secretary-General said.

Curbing cluster munitions could slash deaths, suffering and deprivation that civilians face during conflicts, he noted, while ridding the world of these weapons could also allow refugees and displaced people to return to their homes, while freeing up land to be used productively.

"And we can add a new chapter to international humanitarian law, alongside those on landmines and explosive remnants of war," Mr. Ban stressed, calling for an international treaty to prohibit the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.

The new pact should also require the destruction of existing stockpiles and help to clear the weapons and assist victims, he added.

Stressing the effect cluster munitions have on children, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) also called on all countries to conclude a new legal instrument to do away with the devices.

Some 40 per cent of victims of these weapons are children who are injured or killed long after direct hostilities have drawn to a close, the agency highlighted. Children are particularly at risk because they are drawn to the devices, which are often small and shiny.

Used for more than six decades, cluster munitions have contaminated countries such as Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia for over 30 years, while more recently they have been used in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and in southern Lebanon.

UNICEF estimates that there are billions of these weapons still in existing scattered across over 70 countries.

ENDS

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