OSLO -- Forty-six countries agreed yesterday to push for a global treaty banning cluster bombs, a move activists hope would force the superpowers that oppose the effort -- the United States, China, and Russia -- to abandon the weapons.
Organizers said the declaration was needed despite the absence of key nations at a conference in the Norwegian capital to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster posed by unexploded cluster munitions.
Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs, or missiles that scatter them over vast areas, with some failing to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years after conflicts end until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors.
Of the 49 countries attending the Oslo conference, only three -- Japan, Poland, and Romania -- rejected the declaration , calling for a treaty by next year. Some key arms makers -- including the United States, Russia, Israel, and China -- did not attend the conference.
Jody Williams, an American who shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for a global campaign to ban land mines, urged nations supporting a cluster bomb treaty to move ahead without the major powers.
"They should do it the same way, with countries that realize that there are 191 countries in the world, and not just three," she told the Associated Press.