May 29th, 2008 03:36 EST
Draft Treaty Outlaws Cluster Bombs
Diplomats from more than 100 countries meeting in Ireland have agreed on a draft treaty outlawing cluster bombs, which have killed or wounded thousands of civilians.
The draft approved Wednesday would give signatory nations eight years to destroy their cluster bomb stockpiles.
Earlier, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his government will stop using cluster bombs.
But the United States, one of the world's largest builders of the bombs, opposes a ban.
The U.S., Israel, Russia, China, India and Pakistan are not present at the Dublin meeting.
Cluster bombs are fired from the ground or dropped from planes. They explode in mid-air and scatter hundreds of smaller bombs over a wide area. The bomblets that do not explode on impact can stay hidden for months before blowing-up.
The United Nations says the bomblets have killed or wounded thousands of unsuspecting civilians, including children who mistake them for toys.
Final approval of the draft is expected later this week. Participating countries plan to sign it later this year.
U.S. officials say they are also concerned about the dangers to civilians of unexploded bomblets. But they say the weapons are still useful in certain conflicts. They say cluster bombs should be upgraded so that the unexploded bomblets become harmless after a certain period.Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters and AFP.