October 2, 2008 / 5:10 PM / 11 years ago

Bus to tour Europe lobbying for cluster bombs ban

By Ljilja Cvekic

BELGRADE, Oct 2 (Reuters) - A bus carrying campaigners against the use of cluster bombs will visit European capitals in the next two months to lobby governments to ban the munitions.

"In every conflict in the last 50 years there’s an increased use of cluster bombs," said organiser John Rodsted, adding it was a legacy "that simply does not go away, they don’t defuse themselves, they lay in the ground, in the trees, in the rocks". Cluster bombs kill or maim thousands of people every year.

Dropped from planes or fired by mortars, containers of up to 250 bomblets burst open and spread them over an area the size of four city blocks.

Most explode immediately but others can be triggered years later, by touch, motion or even static electricity from someone’s clothes.

Rodsted, a photographer, has documented the weapons and their victims across the world for over 20 years.

The territory of the former Yugoslavia is the most affected region in Europe and the countries will need at least a decade to clear areas of bombs dropped during the 1990s wars, especially in Bosnia, but also in Kosovo and Serbia.

"More than 95 percent of casualties are civilians, and the true target, soldiers, are killed the least," said Branislav Kapetanovic, who lost both arms and legs while clearing land of cluster bombs in Serbia in 2000.

In May, 107 countries adopted a Convention on Cluster Munition to prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions and provide help to survivors and those trying to clear contaminated areas.

Cluster bombs are still being used however.

"We saw just some weeks ago, both Georgia and Russia used cluster munitions," said Petter Eide, the secretary general of Norwegian People’s Aid, which is backing the trip.

The activists on their "Ban Bus" will leave the Serbian capital Belgrade on Thursday evening and visit a string of countries before reaching Oslo in time for the signing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Dec. 3.

"We hope that more than 100 countries will gather in Oslo to sign the treaty," Eide said. (Editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Philippa Fletcher)

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