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Israel Reportedly Misused Cluster Bombs in Lebanon

Retrieved from Naharnet on January 28, 2007

 The White House will inform Congress Monday that Israel may have violated U.S. arms export agreements by using U.S.-supplied cluster bombs during its summer war on Lebanon, The New York Times reported Sunday.

 Unless Congress takes legislative action, the newspaper said, President George Bush has discretion under U.S. law about whether to impose sanctions on Israel, which U.S. officials said would be unlikely.

 The preliminary report is based on a probe launched in August and on information Israel gave the State Department in late 2006 acknowledging it fired thousands of cluster munitions but denying it broke any agreement, the state department told the newspaper.

 During its July 12-August 14 war against Lebanon, Israel dropped more than a million cluster bombs in southern Lebanon, according the United Nations, to counter Hizbullah rocket attacks that were killing Israelis.

 The cluster munitions, which spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container, included artillery shells, rockets and bombs dropped from aircraft, many of which the U.S. sold to Israel years ago, a U.S. official told the New York Times.

 The Arms Export Control Act bans the use of cluster munitions against populated areas. Israel says Lebanese civilians were not targeted but were warned ahead of the action by dropped leaflets.

 Some State Department and Pentagon officials believe Israel used the cluster bombs in self-defense, while others contend they violated U.S. law because they were used on populated areas, officials familiar with the debate told the newspaper.

 State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Congress would be notified of the report on Monday and that a final determination on whether Israel had violated the agreements was still being debated, the Times reported.

 "It is important to remember the kind of war Hizbullah waged," McCormack said. "They used innocent civilians as a way to shield their fighters."

 The sanctions could include a ban on the sale of cluster weapons to Israel similar to the six-year ban imposed 25 years ago under then U.S. president Ronald Reagan, after Israel used cluster munitions in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

 Since Israel manufactures its own cluster munitions, the daily added, any sanctions would have mainly symbolic significance.(AFP-Naharnet)