13 November 2008


Photos: Mary WarehamClearance in the south constrained by lack of funding(Beirut, Lebanon, 13 November 2008) - The Cluster Munition Coalition welcomes Lebanon's strong endorsement of the new international treaty banning cluster bombs, which will be opened for signature in Norway on 3 December 2008.Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fawzi Salloukh told a regional meeting held in Beirut this week, "...no one should experience the pain we have experienced through cluster bombs to be able to comprehend it."He welcomed the successful adoption in May 2008 by 107 states of the Convention on Cluster Munitions as a "historic landmark ... that will benefit future generations."Salloukh cited the treaty's provisions on victim assistance and international cooperation as particular highlights and urged all countries to join the Convention without delay. Salloukh said that the treaty text will shortly be forwarded to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval. He later told the National Broadcasting Network (NBN) Lebanon's television channel that he intends to be in Oslo to sign the Convention on Lebanon's behalf. More than 100 countries are expected to sign in Oslo, including many foreign ministers."Signing the Convention is the beginning of the end for a weapon that has no place in modern militaries,"said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch. "We are committed to helping Lebanon and other affected nations that sign to receive financial, technical, and other resources needed to ensure they implement the treaty's provisions."Lebanon played a highly influential role during the negotiations of the treaty, which comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and requires clearance of cluster munition remnants and assistance to people affected by the weapon. Israel's massive use of cluster munitions in South Lebanon in July-August 2006 created a humanitarian emergency that served as the catalyst for the diplomatic "Oslo Process"initiative that led to the creation of the Convention."During our visit to Lebanon this week we have talked to civilians who are risking their lives to farm land contaminated by unexploded cluster bomblets,"said CMC spokesperson Ayman Sorour of Protection. "We also met with dedicated deminers who are frustrated as they can see the finish line, but dangerously depleted funding is forcing them to close their operations before their work is finished."At the end of October 2008, eleven clearance teams from BACTEC stopped their battlefield area clearance work due to lack of funds and their operation will close by the end of the year. Other clearance agencies and Lebanese authorities are concerned with completing their clearance objectives in the face of diminished funding.The Beirut Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, held from 11-12 November 2008, was the final in a series of meetings held to promote signature of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Oslo Signing Ceremony will take place on 3-4 December 2008. Countries that did not adopt the Convention in May are also eligible to sign in Oslo, or at the United Nations in New York thereafter.• Contact: Khaled Yamout, Norwegian People's Aid, +961-3-565-205• For media accreditation to the Oslo Signing Conference, go to: http://www.osloccm.no/• Read some excerpts from Salloukh's speech here• See also: CMC Fact Sheet on Cluster Munitions in the Middle East and North Africawww.stopclustermunitions.org