NATO to give Serbia data on cluster bombs

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BRUSSELS, Sep 19 (Reuters) NATO said today it would give Serbia information on the cluster bombs that were a controversial part of the alliance's 1999 air strikes to eject Serb forces from the breakaway province of Kosovo.

The move is part of efforts to determine whether the bombs, some of which may not have exploded, remain a danger to the public. The data will be used in a survey on munitions to be carried out by a Norwegian non-governmental organisation.

''We expect that next week NATO will be in a position to hand over a consolidated list of the cluster munitions dropped at that time. This list will include the number of units and their coordinates,'' NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters.

He said the step followed a request for information made by Belgrade in February.

NATO used cluster bombs, which typically eject clusters of smaller ''bomblets'' to spread their effect, for attacking such targets as army convoys or troop concentrations in Kosovo.

However, the alliance admitted during the campaign that some bombs went off course. NATO cluster bombs killed 15 people in the southern city of Nis, which put paid to the idea that modern high-tech bombing is faultless.

NATO has retained some 16,000 troops in UN-administered Kosovo and says it plans to keep them there while its status is being settled and until there is no risk of instability there.

Campaigners whose lobbying helped secure a 1997 ban on landmines have now turned their attention to cluster bombs, which they blame for having indiscriminately killed or maimed tens of thousands of civilians.

Some 80 states have pledged support for an international ban on cluster bombs which campaigners hope could be achieved by next year.

REUTERS GL RK2128

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