November 10, 2011
Britain is backing a US-led plan to torpedo the global ban on cluster bombs, in what MPs and arms campaigners fear is an attempt to legitimise the use of weapons that are widely deemed to be inherently indiscriminate.
In recent years, the UK has played a leading role in trying to rid the world of cluster bombs. It is one of 111 countries that have signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, is on target to destroy its own stockpile, and has ordered the US military to remove any submunitions it holds on British soil.
But The Independent has learnt that the UK Government is supporting a Washington-led proposal that would permit the use of cluster bombs as long as they were manufactured after 1980 and had a failure rate of less than one per cent. Arms campaigners say the 1980 cut-off point is arbitrary, and that many modern cluster bombs have far higher failure rates on the field of battle than manufacturers claim.
The international community is gathering in Geneva next week to discuss the proposal, which will be tabled as a new protocol for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – a UN treaty from the early 1980s that forbids the use of “excessively injurious” weapons such as mines, booby traps, incendiary devices and blinding lasers.