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Cluster bomb ban to enter into force on Aug. 1

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Tuesday that the international convention banning cluster bombs has received the 30 ratifications required and will enter into force on Aug. 1.

Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles, which scatter them over vast areas. Some fail to explode immediately and can lie dormant for years until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors. A bomblet can kill or maim someone within 10 to 50 yards (meters).

The convention prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for the destruction of stockpiles and clearance of contaminated land, and obliges states to support survivors and affected communities.

Only those countries that have ratified the convention will be bound by its provisions.

Ban said the United Nations received the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Tuesday, triggering its entry into force on Aug. 1, according to a statement from the U.N. spokesman.

The U.N. chief said the convention's impending entry into force just two years after its adoption demonstrates "the world's collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons" which are "unreliable and inaccurate" and kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end, the statement said.

The group Handicap International says 98 percent of cluster-bomb victims are civilians, and nearly a third are children.

Ban urged all countries to sign and ratify the convention.

But 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 support the convention, arguing that cluster bombs have legitimate military uses.

Faced with growing international pressure, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced in July 2008 that the United States would reduce its inventory of cluster bombs that don't meet new safety requirements and would require that after 2018, more than 99 percent of the bomblets must detonate.

The London-based Cluster Munition Coalition said Burkina Faso and Moldova ratified the convention on Tuesday, bringing the total number of ratifications to the required 30.

The 28 other countries that have ratified the convention are Norway, Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Albania, Croatia, Laos, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Burundi, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Malta, Nicaragua, Niger, San Marino and Uruguay.

The process of drafting the convention was launched when 46 states agreed in February 2007 to conclude a legally binding international treaty banning cluster munitions by 2008. Negotiations involved pro-ban governments and organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. The convention was adopted in Dublin, Ireland by 107 states on May 30, 2008.

The Cluster Munition Coalition, which represents 200 activist groups against cluster bombs, said the first meeting of states that have ratified the convention will be held in Laos in late 2010.

Steve Goose, the coalition's co-chair and director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, said reaching the 30 ratifications so rapidly "reflects the strong global commitment to get rid of these weapons urgently."

"Cluster munitions are already stigmatized to the point that no nation should ever use them again, even those who have not yet joined the convention," he said in a statement.