Two countries ratify cluster bomb ban convention
New Zealand and Belgium on Wednesday ratified the international convention banning the use and production of cluster bombs, bringing the U.N. convention two votes closer to becoming a binding international law.
Representatives to the U.N. submitted the two countries' ratification of the Cluster Munitions Disarmament Convention, taking the signatories to 26, four less than needed to become binding international law. It goes into effect six months after the 30th ratification, the international Cluster Munitions Coalition said on its Web site.
"The more states that commit to it the stronger the norm against cluster munitions will become," New Zealand's Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Georgina te Heuheu said in a statement. "I urge all states that have not already done so to sign and ratify as soon as possible."
Some of the world's top military powers - including the U.S., Russia and China - and big users like Israel, India and Pakistan, have refused to take part, arguing cluster bombs have legitimate military uses.
Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles, which scatter them over vast areas. Some fail to explode immediately. Unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors.
The group Handicap International says 98 percent of cluster-bomb victims are civilians. Nearly a third of all victims are children.