VATICAN CITY, AUG. 23, 2005 ( The Holy See appealed to the international community for a treaty to put an end to cluster bombs.

The appeal was made by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva, when addressing a session of government experts from the nations that support the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The session ran Aug. 2-12 in that Swiss city.

"There are thousands of dead, wounded, disabled, victims of cluster bombs," said the archbishop, "and it is possible to see without difficulty the obstacles to the return of refugees, in several regions contaminated by cluster bombs that have not exploded."

The use of a good number of this type of arms poses "a grave and disproportionate humanitarian problem in respect of the military advantages," lamented the prelate.

Cluster bombs have been used in recent conflicts, such as in the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 Kosovo war, in Afghanistan (2001-2002) and especially at the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

Threat to civilians

"Bombs were used, which when falling drop smaller bombs over a vast territory which often do not explode, at least in a sufficiently significant percentage," Archbishop Tomasi said later, when explaining the reasons for his proposal.

"Therefore, they have subsequent consequences, when children or workers, for example, farmers, return to normal life. At that moment, those bombs explode, creating thousands of victims or wounded, mutilated people," he noted.

In his address to the meeting in Geneva, Archbishop Tomasi stressed that for these reasons "a pause for reflection is an imperative."

"But it would be insufficient and inadequate to limit reflection to the question of improving the quality of the cluster bombs, knowing that these arms, by their conception, are not precision arms," he added.

"On the contrary, they disperse over vast surfaces, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to respect the principle of distinction between military and civil objectives, particularly in the areas of high concentration of population," the Holy See aide said.


"Consultations in this area are more than necessary," the archbishop said. "They should be undertaken without delay, with the participation of states, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and all those involved in the action of humanitarian de-mining."

While awaiting the results of these consultations, the Holy See's permanent observer said that "the international community cannot and must not be content with counting the victims and the consequences of these arms."

Archbishop Tomasi added: "If for different reasons it is not possible to come to an immediate agreement on the definitive prohibition of the production and use of this category of arms, the Holy See energetically supports the idea of a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs during the period of the suggested consultations, in the hope of arriving at the adoption of an appropriate international agreement."