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Last update - 06:38 17/04/2007
Belgian Defense Minister: Israel must pay to clear cluster bombs in Lebanon
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent
Belgium's Defense Minister said last week that he would act to extract payment from Israel for the removal of cluster bomb fragments that the Israel Defense Forces fired into Lebanese territory during the Second Lebanon War.
During a meeting with representatives of Medical Aid for the Third World (MATW), an international medical organization, Defense Minister Andre Flahaut said the weapon was "the resort of cowards and a violation of international law."
The organization's coordinator, Dr. Bert De Belder, told Haaretz that Flahaut was receptive to the idea that Israel should be regarded as a polluter, and be made to pay for the removal of the pollution so far estimated at $13 million.
According to De Belder, Flahaut said he will recommend to Prime Minister Verhofstadt to adopt the principle.
Flahaut, scheduled to visit Lebanon this week, informed De Belder that he intended to advise the Lebanese government to support making Israel financially accountable. De Belder and the other members of the MATW delegation presented Flahaut with a petition signed by 3,415 Belgian supporters, including 13 MPs from various political factions.
The MATW did not address the issue of how the funds would be collected from Israel.
"We left that up to the Belgian government, as the removal is performed at its expense by the Belgian contingent to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon," De Belder said.
He acknowledged that his organization dealt mainly with humanitarian aid and not with international law, adding that it was also "dedicated to international justice." He also said: "Our petition was reviewed by attorney Selma Ben Khelifa, who specializes in human rights".
De Belder added he had not seen "a shred of evidence" that Hezbollah also fired cluster bombs into Israel. Human Rights Watch announced last October that it found 113 such instances.