Methodist Church urges UK Government to join call for a ban on the use of cluster munitions

Following the war in South Lebanon hundreds of thousands ofunexploded cluster bomblets litter the landscape and are maimingand killing civilians including children long after the end of thehostilities. The UN Under Secretary General for HumanitarianAffairs has described Israel's use of cluster munitions in SouthLebanon as shocking and immoral. Last week Hilary Benn, Ministerfor International Development, in a leaked letter to MargaretBeckett, Foreign Secretary, and Des Browne, Defence Secretary,opposed the continued use of these weapons.

Steve Hucklesby states, 'In 2003, Methodist Conference called onthe UK government to support an international ban on the use ofsuch weapons. Cluster munitions were controversially used in apopulated area during the US and UK assault on Basra in 2003. Wewrote then to the Government to express our concern about the useof cluster bombs. In reply the Ministry of Defence estimated thatour forces' use of cluster munitions in Iraq resulted in 3000unexploded bomblets. While this may represent a small proportion ofthe unexploded ordinance in Iraq, a report in 2003 has neverthelessestimated 147 deaths from unexploded bomblets.'

At the UN Review Conference on Conventional Weapons currentlymeeting in Geneva governments are discussing a new set of rules tolimit the use of cluster munitions. So far 18 states have supportedthe implementation of new rules, but the UK is not currentlyamongst them.

Mr Hucklesby said, 'The current safeguards under international lawand the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons are inadequate torestrain the use of these weapons. We call on the UK government tojoin with others in Geneva to implement a freeze on the use ofcluster munitions.'