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Friday, August 11, 2006

US M-26 rockets with cluster munitions to Israel

The US government is considering an Israeli request for M-26 artillery rockets with cluster munitions it wants to use against Hezbollah missile sites in Lebanon, The New York Times said.

A senior US official said the request was likely to be approved shortly, but other officials said the State Department is delaying approval amid concerns the munitions might cause civilian casualties and complicate diplomatic efforts to end the war.

The senior official said there was discussion to block the sale because during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon civilians were killed with the weapon, but added that the rockets would likely be delivered and that Israel would be told to "be careful."

Month-long battles between Israel and Hezbolla militias have left more than 1,000 civilians dead in Lebanon and 38 in Israel, while diplomats at the United Nations have been wrangling over the wording of a proposed resolution urging an end to hostilities.

Described as short-range antipersonnel rockets, the M-26 are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area.

Israel wants to use the M-26 to target Hezbollah Katyusha missile sites in Lebanon its bombers and artillery attacks have been unable to destroy, the officials said.

The sale of M-26 rockets to Israel was approved some time ago but had not been delivered when the current crisis in Lebanon broke out, the newspaper said.

The sale of cluster munitions to Israel was suspended in 1982 by late US president Ronald Reagan when it was determined Israel had used them against civilian areas.

The moratorium was lifted later in the Reagan administration and since then the US has sold Israel some types of cluster munitions, the senior US official said.

The M-26 is used in conjunction with the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which Israel has already received, the daily said.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.


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