Middle East

Cluster bombs: Lebanon conference aims for eradication

Cluster bombs
Image caption International delegates are shown cluster bombs recovered in southern Lebanon

Officials from over 100 countries are in Beirut for an international conference on cluster munitions.

They aim to eradicate the weapon, which has killed or maimed tens of thousands.

Organisers say hundreds of thousands of unexploded munitions remain in Lebanon after being dropped by Israel during the 2006 conflict. They have killed or injured at least 366 people since then.

An international convention on cluster munitions has been in force for over a year.

It requires signatories to forgo the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of the weapons. More than 100 countries have joined the convention, 62 of them as full state parties.

The latest to become a state party is Afghanistan. The Kabul government announced its decision on the eve of the Beirut conference.

The organisers of the meeting are urging governments to destroy their stockpiles, clear contaminated land and assist survivors.

Hidden for years

Cluster munitions split open before impact, scattering hundreds of smaller bombs, often the size of tennis balls.

Many of these cluster bombs fail to explode immediately, lying hidden for years after the original conflict.

They can kill and maim civilians, including unsuspecting children who treat the weapons as toys.

Image caption The remnant tail section of a Spanish-made cluster bomb dropped by Col Gaddafi's forces on Misrata

China, Israel, Russia and the United States are among countries who have not signed the treaty.

They are thought to manufacture and stockpile most of the world's cluster munitions.

The worst affected countries in the world are Lebanon and Iraq. After former leader Col Muammar Gadaffi's use of cluster munitions earlier this year, Libya is now also affected.

Substantial progress has been made in Lebanon, where over half the contaminated land has been cleared.

More than 200,000 unexploded munitions have been found and rendered harmless since 2006.

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