By DOUG MELLGREN, Associated Press WriterSan Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, December 3, 2008(12-03) 13:27 PST OSLO, Norway (AP)
--An Afghan teenager who lost both legs in a cluster bomb explosion helped persuade his country to change its stance and join nearly 100 nations in signing a treaty Wednesday banning the disputed weapons.
Afghanistan was initially reluctant to join the pact — which the United States and Russia have refused to support — but agreed to after lobbying by victims maimed by cluster munitions, including 17-year-old Soraj Ghulan Habib. The teen, who uses a wheelchair, met with his country's ambassador to Norway, Jawed Ludin, at a two-day signing conference in Oslo.
Because cluster bombs can lie undetected long after they have been discharged, they are known to continue killing even when a war is over. In Iraq, a minimum of 50 million sub-munitions have been used in U.S.-led operations between 1991 and 2006. About 3,000 casualties have been identified because of these weapons. www.thewe.cc - [articles and photos]
"I explained to the ambassador my situation, and that the people of Afghanistan wanted a ban," Habib, who said he was crippled by a cluster bomb seven years ago, told The Associated Press.
Speaking through an interpreter, Habib said the ambassador called Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who agreed to change his stance on the treaty.
"Today is a historic day," Habib declared. ( Continued )