An international treaty banning cluster munitions will come into force later this year after the number of countries to register their ratification reaches 30, the United Nations says.
Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster bombs open in mid-air and scatter bomblets over a wide area. Campaigners against their use say they have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians but countries that make and use them say they are a legitimate anti-personnel weapon.
Burkina Faso and Moldova deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations on Tuesday, enabling the treaty, adopted at a Dublin conference in May 2008, to come into force on Aug. 1, UN officials said.
The treaty is binding only on countries that have signed and ratified it. So far, 104 countries have signed the pact, according to advocacy group Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).
Countries that have signed the convention include major European states France, Germany and Spain. Britain and Italy have signed but not ratified.
Those that have done neither include the United States, Russia, China and Israel. The United States plans to ban the weapons from 2018.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the 30 ratifications a “major advance on the global disarmament agenda” and said the treaty’s entry into force “demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons.”
“Cluster munitions are unreliable and inaccurate,” Ban said in a statement. “They maim and kill scores of civilians, including many children. They impair post-conflict recovery by making roads and land inaccessible to farmers and aid workers.”
The UN chief called on all countries to join the convention “without delay.”
The treaty bans the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions and sets deadlines for stockpile destruction and clearance of contaminated land. It also obliges states to support survivors and affected communities.
At least 15 countries have used cluster bombs since they were first deployed by the Soviet Union against Nazi troops in 1943.
In recent times, the United Nations estimated that Israel used up to 4 million submunitions in Lebanon during a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who also fired more than 100 cluster munitions rockets into northern Israel.
Both Russia and Georgia used them during their August 2008 conflict.
A first meeting of parties to the treaty is scheduled to be held in Laos in late 2010.
Laos is the country most heavily contaminated by cluster munitions as a result of US bombing during the Indochina war more than 30 years ago, according to the CMC.
Pic: Cluster bombs