Britain gave US 'exception' on cluster bombs: WikiLeaks

2nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain offered the United States a deal to keep stocks of cluster bombs on its territory despite London signing up to an international ban on the weapons, a US cable leaked by WikiLeaks said Thursday.

The diplomatic note dated May 2009 also reveals the two powers agreed to keep the deal quiet to avoid "complicating" a debate over the ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in the British parliament.

The United States has refused to sign up to the convention, which was prompted by concerns of the impact of the bombs on civilians. It came into force on August 1 this year.

The leaked cable says ministers urged the United States to move out all their stockpiles by a deadline of 2013.

But it said: "In answer to queries about the case-by-case temporary storage exception for specific missions.... (Foreign Office officials) confirmed that the concept was accepted at highest levels of the government, as that idea has been included in the draft letter from Minister Miliband to Secretary Clinton."

It referred to the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The leaked cable added that while all cluster munitions would have to be moved out after 2013, "any new cluster munitions the USG (Washington) wanted to bring to those sites after the treaty's entry into force for the UK -- either before or after 2013 -- would require the temporary exception".

This included any movement of cluster munitions from ships on the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

A senior Foreign Office official said it would be better if the final agreement on the proposal was kept quiet until the CCM was passed.

He was quoted as saying: "It would be better for the USG and HMG (Her Majesty's Government) not to reach final agreement on this temporary agreement understanding until after the CCM ratification process is completed in parliament, so that they can tell parliamentarians that they have requested the USG to remove its cluster munitions by 2013, without complicating/muddying the debate by having to indicate that this request is open to exceptions."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office denied any attempt to mislead lawmakers.

"We reject any allegation that the Foreign Office deliberately misled parliament or failed in our obligation to inform parliament," he told The Guardian newspaper, which first published the WikiLeaks document.

© 2010 AFP

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