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UK bans child-luring bombs

Gordon Brown has called on bombs which can be mistaken for toys to be banned around the world. Britain has also pledged to destroy its stockpile of cluster bombs — about 24 million bomblets, the same size as a tin can — within three years. Cluster bombs scatter dozens of tiny bomblets over a wide area. But one in twenty of the brightly coloured bomblets, fail to explode. Instead they stay where fall for months, sometimes years until mistaken by children and adults as food or something to play with, they explode, shattering into hundreds of deadly pieces.

Children and adults not involved in fighting account for 60 per cent of the deaths and injuries caused by cluster bombs, according to studies by non-governmental organisations. “We want all other users and producers of these munitions around the world to follow in our footsteps,” the Prime Minister said. “I am hugely proud that with this Bill receiving Royal Assent, Britain is leading the world in banning the use of these munitions and moving to end the harm they cause,” Mr Brown said. Urging more countries to sign up an international treaty that bans cluster bombs, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he said: “We want nothing less than a full global ban on cluster munitions, with all countries signing up to the international convention. There can be no place in the international community for cruel and indiscriminate weaponry such as cluster bombs.”The convention, which comes into force in August, bans using, making, stockpiling and transporting cluster bombs.

Britain last dropped cluster bombs in 2003, on Iraq and now spends £10 million a year on international efforts to clear areas where cluster bombs have been dropped, The Times newspaper reported. A total of 85 countries still use or hold cluster bombs including the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan and Israel. Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant said understanding the horrific impact of the weapons had led to a change of heart in favour of banning them: “The facts, I think, over the last few years have changed people's minds. "The fact that a third of the people who are most affected by cluster munitions have been children; the fact that literally thousands of people are killed not only in the process of war but in many cases a long time after the war has been in operation because sub-munitions lie around unexploded."

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children