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US expert speaks out against cluster bombs at conference

By Hesham Shawish

The Daily Star, Thursday, August 09, 2007


BEIRUT: A US expert on cluster bombs said Tuesday that out of the four million cluster bomblets dropped in Lebanon by Israel during last year’s war, 1.2 million bomblets are still unexploded. Franklin Lamb of the Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace Association said Tuesday during a ceremony held to support the Lebanese victims of cluster bombs, that of the four million cluster bombs dropped in southern Lebanon, Beirut’s Southern Suburbs and the Bekaa Valley, 1.2 million still constitute a serious threat to civilians.

Lamb also revealed that “despite the fact that the US has stopped producing cluster bombs, they still produce the delivery systems essential for their usage and provide these to Israel, which produces thousands of cluster bombs every day.”

Lamb, among many other experts from international organizations and public interest groups within the US is looking for a ban in all production of these delivery systems and the usage of cluster bombs.

Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil, who was representing Speaker Nabih Berri, said that Israel should stop using cluster bombs. “We support all the victims of cluster bombs,” he said.

Khalil and Lamb were speaking during a ceremony that was held at the UNESCO palace for victims of Israeli cluster bombs. The event was sponsored by Berri in an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of hundreds of people affected by this ’sleeping death.’

Victims, relatives, experts, representatives of international health and social organizations, religious figures and ministers were all present for a show of solidarity with those affected by cluster bombs and in an attempt to assess the current situation regarding these lethal weapons.

Ali Fawaz, a bomb clearance worker from the Land Mines Awareness Section in Nabatiyeh told The Daily Star that “our operations are focused on the South, Beirut’s Dahiyeh district as well as in the Bekaa Valley. Our main tasks are clearing areas, raising awareness, providing assistance to cluster bomb victims and cooperating with the army.”

The Welfare Association for War Injured and Disabled People’s media head, Imad Khoshman said that the massive task of clearing the unexploded ordinance relies on international organizations, donor states and the government.

He said “the deadly weapon is preventing up to 200,000 displaced from returning to their homes,” as bomblets remain in farms, olive groves, hedges, gardens, fences and trees.

Khoshman said his association is involved in victim assistance and raising awareness of the dangers of cluster bombs.

“There must be respect for human life by Israel, which is responsible for scores of deaths and injuries not just from these weapons, but from mines scattered from previous attacks against Lebanese citizens as well as during their invasion in 1978,” Khoshman added.

He said “155 villages in the south have been affected since the end of last year’s 34-day war with Israel, with 32 [people] killed and 218 injured from unexploded cluster bombs.”

Regarding the assistance offered to Khoshman’s association, he said that “a number of international organizations and donors have come to our assistance, providing aid, awareness, media outlets, posters, teaching assistance, even up to toys for child victims affected by cluster bombs,” adding that the victims often receiving horrific injuries from loss of limbs to brain damage, and in extreme cases death.

The Norwegian government has played a major role in the form of the Norwegian People’s Aid as well as other Norwegian charities that have provided assistance, financial aid, victim assistance, work loans to the victims and their families, reconstruction and accessibility provisions.

Lebanese Army General Mohammad Fahmi said that “the Army stands by all victims of cluster bombs in the South and all other Lebanese territories, without exception.”

The General said that the Lebanese Army was cooperating with non-governmental organizations and international organizations to decrease the number of unexploded bomblets.

Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah condemned the use of cluster bombs in his utmost and called it “one of the ugliest crimes against humanity.”

Although the number of unexploded cluster bomblets remains high, the Lebanese National Demining Office reported a reduction in the number of casualties from the year 2006 to 2007 from cluster bombs. They attributed the reduction to mine risk education and major clearance activities in the most highly afflicted areas in the south.

Awareness products used and distributed in campaigns include stickers, posters, booklets and illustrated stories, school plays, children’s songs, building advertisements, bill boards, educative toys, documentaries and media as well as a host of other products and devices.

 



 


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