September 1, 2006

A decade to clear cluster bombs in Lebanon

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Clearing unexploded cluster bombs used
by Israel in Lebanon during the month-long war, many of them
U.S.-manufactured, could take 10 years, a British-based
demining group said on Friday.

"We will be clearing unexploded cluster munitions from the
rubble of the villages of southern Lebanon for another decade,"
said Simon Conway, director of Land mine Action. "That is the
grim reality," he told reporters in Geneva.

Before the recent war between Israel and Hizbollah
guerrillas in the south, demining teams were still clearing
unexploded cluster munitions from Israel's 1978 and 1982
incursions into Lebanon, according to the advocacy group which
is campaigning for an international ban on their use.

Such weapons continue to kill and maim civilians,
especially children, for years after a conflict, it said.

The United Nations estimates that 100,000 cluster bomblets
that failed to explode lie in Lebanon, with most landing during
the final 72 hours of the war, which ended in an August 14

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has called
Israel "completely immoral" for using them in residential


"My understanding from the people I have spoken to in
southern Lebanon is that the scale of cluster munition
contamination is much greater than was seen in Kosovo,
Afghanistan and Iraq," said Conway, a former deminer in
post-conflict zones including Kosovo, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Israel denies using the weapons illegally and accuses
Hizbollah of firing rockets into Israel from civilian areas.

Three types of artillery-delivered cluster bombs were used
by Israel in Lebanon -- two U.S.-made (M42 and M77) and one
Israeli (M85), each with roughly the same failure rate of 40
percent, he said.

So far, the United Nations has found 400 strike sites where
cluster bombs -- "a lot of them U.S.-manufactured" -- were
used, said David Shearer, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in

U.N. demining teams, who have destroyed 2,900 sub-munitions
so far, predict it would take 12 to 15 months to clean up the
cluster bombs.

"Currently one person per day is being killed and three
people per day are being injured by ordnance of all types,"
Shearer told reporters.

Some 100 deminers -- from Sweden, Britain and New Zealand
-- will be deployed by the end of the week, according to the
U.N. official, who expected the U.N. force in south Lebanon
(UNIFIL) to be more involved as troop levels rise.