[JURIST] The United States Friday rejected an international call [JURIST report] to ban the use of cluster munitions [FAS backgrounder] by 2008. State Department [official website] spokesperson Sean McCormack [official profile] told reporters at a daily press briefing [text; video] that the United States "takes the position that [cluster] munitions do have a place and a use in military inventories, given the right technology as well as the proper rules of engagement." McCormack emphasized that the United States has spent "about a billion dollars" in the past decade to clean up "unexploded munitions all around the world." Meanwhile Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website; JURIST news archive] encouraged [press release] "all progress to reduce and ultimately eliminate the horrendous humanitarian effects of these weapons." Ban also called on the parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) [UN backgrounder; US delegation backgrounder] to reexamine the "reliability... technical and design characteristics of cluster munitions with a view to minimizing their humanitarian impact."
Earlier Friday, 46 of 49 countries participating in the two-day Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions [conference materials] agreed to an action plan to develop a new international treaty [press release] to ban the use of cluster munitions by 2008. Romania, Poland and Japan refused to sign the Oslo Declaration [text, PDF]. The United States, Russia, Israel, and China chose not to attend the conference. Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [CMC backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977). AFP has more. UN News Centre has additional coverage.