[JURIST] An amendment to the FY 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations bill [HR 5631 summary] which would prohibit the US military from using cluster bombs in proximity to civilians was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 70-30 [roll call] on Wednesday. The Cluster Munitions Amendment [PDF text], introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website], would also restrict the sale of cluster bombs to purchasers who agreed to avoid civilian targets. In a press release [text], Feinstein stated that "unexploded cluster bombs fuel anger and resentment and make security, stabilization, and reconstruction efforts that much harder," while Leahy commented [press release] that the US "used massive numbers of cluster munitions in the invasion of Iraq, including in densely inhabited areas, and innocent civilians paid and continue to pay a terrible price."
This vote comes after the US State Department's [official website] Directorate of Defense Trade Controls [official website] opened an investigation [JURIST report] last month into whether Israel used cluster munitions [FAS backgrounder; Cluster Munition Coalition advocacy website] in Lebanon during the most recent Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive] in violation of several US-Israel agreements restricting the use of the weapons. Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977). AP has more.