[JURIST] Delegates failed to agree on a binding treaty banning cluster bombs [ICRC materials; JURIST news archive] by the end of a five-day conference organized by Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) [advocacy website] in New Zealand Friday, but have agreed to continue negotiations at a May conference in Dublin. By Friday, conference organizers said that 82 countries had signed the so-called Wellington Declaration [PDF text], acknowledging that cluster bombs should be banned and pledging to continue talks toward that end. Cluster bomb opponents hope that the Wellington Declaration could lead to a binding ban at the Dublin conference, even if the leading producers of cluster munitions - the US, Russia and China - do not join the pact. A week-long meeting of parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons [PDF text] last November similarly concluded [JURIST report] without delegates reaching an agreement on a legally binding ban on cluster munitions. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.
Cluster munitions have been used by at least 23 countries; at least 34 nations have produced more than 200 different types of cluster munitions. In June, the US said it will not support a cluster munitions ban [JURIST report] but that it is open to negotiations to reduce the humanitarian impact by requiring the increased reliability, accuracy and visibility of unexploded munitions. Last February, 46 of 49 countries participating in the two-day Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions agreed to an action plan to develop a new international treaty [press release] to ban the use of cluster munitions by 2008. Romania, Poland and Japan refused to sign the Oslo Declaration [PDF text]. The United States, Russia, Israel, and China chose not to attend the conference. Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [CMC backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials].