A declaration calling for a 2008 treaty banning cluster bombs was adopted Friday by 46 out of 49 nations attending a conference in Oslo, officials for the Norwegian government and two non-governmental groups said. Norway's deputy foreign minister Raymond Johansen said Poland, Romania and Japan did not approve the final declaration. Officials for Human Rights Watch and the Cluster Munition Coalition also said those three countries dissented.
The gathering was snubbed by some key arms makers -- including the U.S., Russia, Israel and China -- but organizers said other nations needed to forge ahead regardless to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster posed by unexploded cluster munitions.
A declaration presented on the last day of the meeting urged nations to "conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument" to ban cluster bombs.
The treaty would "prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians," the declaration said.
Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles, which 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 civilians.
As many as 60 percent of the victims in Southeast Asia are children, the Cluster Munition Coalition said. The weapons have recently been used Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon, it said. The U.N. estimated that Israel dropped as many as 4 million bomblets in southern Lebanon during last year's war with Hezbollah, with as many 40 percent failing to explode on impact.