Friday, July 04, 2003

Ban Cluster Bombs. 

All weapons are inhuman, but the most inhumane of all are cluster bombs, used by the British and Americans in Iraq, and the coalition forces in Afghanistan:

Anything between 2,000 and 17,000 unexploded British bomblets may remain on the ground in Iraq, posing a daily threat to civilian lives, according to estimates by a British MP.

The Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb's figures are based on the likely failure rates of the "sub-munitions" inside the cluster bombs used during the invasion.

Landmine Action, one of the main campaigners against the use of these weapons, believes that the US and UK forces delivered about 300,000 bomblets in the war.

Cluster bombs are highly effective against troop concentrations, but a significant proportion of the bomblets fail to explode on impact.

They remain on the battlefield, in some cases in urban areas, where they can easily be picked up and detonated by children.

UN agencies say hundreds of Iraqi children have been killed or injured since the end of the fighting after collecting unexploded shells and bomblets.

The government says British aircraft dropped 66 cluster bombs, each containing 147 bomblets, and fired 2,000 artillery shells containing 49 bomblets each. That would amount to almost 100,000 bomblets.

Mr Lamb, the MP for North Norfolk, said: "Given a failure rate of just 2%, the minimum quoted by their manufacturers, this means that over 2,000 unexploded sub-munitions are left in Iraq as a result of the use of cluster bombs by British forces alone."

A 5% failure rate was seen as accurate after the war in Afghanistan, he said, which would translate to 5,385 unexploded bomblets in Iraq; the manufacturers' maximum 16% failure rate would mean 17,232.

"The government needs to take urgent action to speed up the clearance of these deadly remnants of conflict," Mr Lamb said.