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Loophole in landmark cluster bomb treaty -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Government is coming under pressure to guarantee that it won't allow
Australian troops to use cluster bombs.

At talks in Ireland more than 100 countries including Australia agreed on a treaty to ban the
production and use of the controversial bombs.

But while it is being hailed as a landmark agreement, there is a loophole that says signatories
will not be in breach of the treaty if they fight alongside non-signatories, and several major
producers of cluster munitions, including the US and Israel, were not at the talks.

Barbara Miller prepared this report:

(Sound of bombs.)

BARBARA MILLER: Cluster bombs open in mid-air, scattering dozens of smaller explosive devices
across a wide area. They've been used in many countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo,
Lebanon and Cambodia.

From a military perspective they render a large area strategically useless, but it's their impact
on civilians that's fuelled an international campaign to have them banned.

WOMAN (translated): I was returning from the field. I stepped on the ground and I don't know how it
exploded. I was bleeding. I felt immediately that I'd lost my leg. It was connected to my body with
just one vein. My mother saw me and started screaming.

BARBARA MILLER: In Ireland, 109 countries have now agreed in principle to ban the production, use
and stockpiling of cluster bombs.

James Turton from the NGO Austcare has campaigned against the use of cluster munitions and is in
Dublin for the talks.

I asked him if the treaty was weakened by the fact that some major users and producers of cluster
bombs, including the US, Russia and Israel, are not party to it.

JAMES TURTON: That does not dilute the strength of this agreement because even though thery're
countries like Russia, China and the US that are outside this treaty, one of the biggest things we
will see this treaty do is stigmatise the use of this weapon. So it will be very difficult for
current users of cluster munitions to use these weapons in the future without, you know, incredibe
international kind of outcry.

BARBARA MILLER: The talks in Ireland were long and arduous and it was eventually agreed that a
clause be included in the treaty which would allow signatories to it to continue fighting alongside
non-signatories.

The Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says he's confident that means Australian troops could not end
up in a position where they had breached the agreement.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well of course we would be concerned to be party to a treaty that caught us
inadvertently because we were somehow involved in a command chain with the US which involved the
use of cluster munitions. So of course we're very cautious to ensure that Australian legal terms
couldn't inadvertently be caught up in those legal processes.

BARBARA MILLER: James Turton from Austcare wants the Australian Government to go further, to ensure
that what he sees as a loophole is not exploited.

JAMES TURTON: We are calling on the Australian Government on Friday, when the Government will
present their closing statements on this Dublin diplomatic conference, we're calling on Australia
to make a really strong statement, to come out and affirm that they're not going to be caught up in
any way in the use of cluster munitions and that this provision is not going to be used by
Australia as a loophole for the use of cluster munitions. And we want them to come out and state
this.

BARBARA MILLER: Another issue of concern to the Australian Government was whether the new SMArt 155
weapons they have purchased would fall under the ban.

The Government has always insisted the SMArt 155s, an anti-tank artillery round, are not cluster
weapons. The Defence Department describes the weapons as highly sophisticated, discriminating,
accurate and reliable.

Joel Fitzgibbon says he's satisfied that's been clarified in Dublin.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: There is nothing in the text that would preclude us from procuring the SMArt 155.
It's a very sophisticated munition of course, and I don't think anyone would argue, well a few
might but very few would argue that the SMArt 155 goes anywhere near falling into the definition of
those munitions that act indiscriminately.

BARBARA MILLER: The cluster bomb treaty is expected to be formally adopted in December of this
year.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.