The Holy See played a key role in brokering a ban on cluster bombs, the Vatican's UN observer, Archbishop Silvio Tommasi, has said.
Zenit quotes Archbishop Tommasi, who is the Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, as saying that international agreement to ban cluster bombs is a "big step," even though there is still much work to be done.
The final treaty, signed Friday in Dublin by 111 nations, prohibits the production, use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. According to the agreement, cluster bombs are scheduled to disappear over the next eight years.
Archbishop Tomasi told Vatican Radio on Saturday that "the international community is quite compact on this vision to put an end to the cruelty implied in the use of this type of bombs, which fall indiscriminately on the civilian population".
According to the prelate, the most important point of the agreement is that "it bans all cluster bombs used to date in different wars and, in addition, conditions the transport, construction of new bombs and also new technologies that can be adapted to these explosives."
He explained the role played by the Holy See was "key," and that it acted "as bridge between the various groups and institutions of states, leading to a positive conviction on the document, an instrument that would be, as [Benedict XVI] has said, strong and credible. And this is exactly what it is."
On May 18, the day before the conference began, the Pope expressed his hopes that "through the responsibility of all the participants, a strong and credible international instrument will be created."
"The path to complete this work is still long," Archbishop Tomasi added, noting the absence in the convention of countries such as the United States, Israel, Russia, China and Pakistan.Despite this, he said the fact that cluster bombs "has been declared illegal in international law" will "carry weight in the decisions and considerations of the countries that were not present."
Pope not to meet world leaders
Meanwhile, AKI reports the Vatican has moved to play down recent media reports that suggested Pope Benedict was trying to avoid meeting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his visit to Rome.
Ahmadinejad is in Italy for the United Nations summit on the global food crisis being held at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome.
"With reference to certain journalistic suppositions that have been circulating in the media over the last few days, the press office feels it appropriate to specify that the Holy Father Benedict XVI was not able to respond positively to the requests for private audience he received from heads of state and government," said the Vatican press office in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The official statement said that the pontiff was unable to meet various heads of state attending the Rome summit "because of the number of requests, the limited time available, and prior commitments.
Some media reports this week claimed that the Pope had cancelled all possible meetings with world leaders to avoid encountering Ahmadinejad.
Holy See: Cluster Bomb Ban a "Big Step" (Zenit, 3/6/08)
Vatican: Pope explains why he will not meet world leaders at summit (ADN Kronos, 3/6/08)
Cluster bomb (Wikipedia)
Cluster bombs (FAS Military Analysis Network)