- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The big spending bill that President Barack Obama signed this week includes a prohibition on most exports of cluster bombs, which can kill for years after their use in wars.

Cluster bombs spread small bomblets, which greatly expands the kill zone. Many of the strewn weapons fail to explode until much later. Often they go off only after unsuspecting civilians pick them up.

The weapons’ latest use in war was by the Israeli air force during its 2006 war in Lebanon against Hezbollah militants.

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The U.S. Air Force used them in NATO’s Balkan war in 1999 and again in the “shock and awe” attacks that began the Iraq war in 2003. The bombs were stopped because of the danger they caused for U.S. soldiers as well as Iraqi civilians.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have introduced further legislation that would prohibit not only the export of the weapons but their use by the U.S. military.

While the amendment to the $410 billion spending bill that Obama signed Wednesday mentions no time limit for the ban, congressional aides said it probably would be considered permanent by the military.

Under the law, the cluster bombs may not be transferred without guarantees from the potential customer that they would not be used where civilians were known to be present.

For the past year, the U.S. military has been under a similar ban on spending money to export cluster bombs. The amendment’s sponsors expect it will be treated as a permanent ban.

“We hope this would lead to permanent change of policy, including the use of these weapons,” David Carle, Leahy’s spokesman, said Thursday.

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