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Israel, U.S. opt out of cluster ban

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Israel, the United States and four other major military powers opted out of an international ban on cluster bombs.

The Dublin agreement signed Wednesday banning the airborne weapons, which scatter bomblets over a wide area, garnered 111 signatories, including European Union nations.

Human rights groups say the bombs pose a threat to civilians because they often do not detonate on time and are left dormant for months. Israel particularly has been criticized for their use; some 200 Lebanese have been killed or maimed since the end of Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah. Israel says it scattered a million bomblets over south Lebanon during that war.

The United States stayed out of the negotiations, in part because it says the devices can be critical in repelling an advancing army. It failed, however, to persuade NATO allies to keep out. Nonetheless, the six major users and producers of cluster bombs did not sign the treaty: Israel, the United States, Pakistan, India, China and Russia.

The U.S. Congress last year banned the sale of cluster bombs that are less than 99 percent reliable, effectively banning them altogether. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) cited in part the postwar casualties in Lebanon in initiating the legislation.

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