Pope Benedict XVI has prayed for the success of the Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions as it opens in Ireland in hopes of negotiating a treaty banning the deadly weapons.
Humanitarian organizations have said a binding treaty is urgently needed because the weapons cause “unacceptable harm to civilians,” Vatican Radio reports. When a cluster weapon is used, it scatters thousands of small bomblets across a wide area. Some of these bomblets fail to explode and can still injure or kill civilians who return to the area.
In recent years the weapons have been used in Kosovo, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Lebanon.
A core of seven countries, including Ireland and the Holy See, played a leading role in bringing negotiations to their present stage. More than 100 nations are represented at the conference.
The main producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions, including the U.S., Britain, China, Russia, and Israel, oppose the ban.
Pope Benedict addressed the proposed ban over the weekend, saying, “It is necessary to heal the errors of the past and avoid them happening again in the future. I pray for the victims of the cluster munitons, for their families, and for those who join in this conference too, wishing that it will be successful.”
On Sunday the Holy Father in his Angelus message said the conference was an “important event.”
"I hope that, thanks to the responsibility of all participants, we can reach an international instrument that is strong and credible: it is indeed necessary to remedy past mistakes and prevent recurrence in the future," he said on Sunday.
The Dublin conference is scheduled to run until May 30. If the conference comes to an agreement, it will create the most important disarmament treaty since the Ottowa prohibition of land mines agreed to ten years ago.