Scores of nations began signing a treaty banning cluster bombs Wednesday in a move that supporters hope will shame the U.S., Russia and China and other non-signers into abandoning weapons blamed for maiming and killing civilians.
Norway, which began the drive to ban cluster bombs 18 months ago, was the first to sign, followed by Laos and Lebanon, both hard-hit by the weapons.
Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles that scatter them over vast areas. Some fail to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors.
Although most of the world’s biggest stockpilers will not sign the treaty - including the US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel - backers argue the treaty will stigmatise the use of cluster bombs even for those who do not sign up.
They say that was the pattern with the landmine treaty, which many stockpilers also failed to sign.