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U.N.: Israeli cluster bombs an 'outrage'

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- A U.N. official has called it an "outrage" that Israel dropped cluster bombs in southern Lebanon.

"It is an outrage that we have 100,000 unexploded bombs" in southern Lebanon that will take a year or two to clear, said Jan Egeland, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

"Every day people are killed and maimed," he added. "Civilians will die disproportionately" and more children than Hezbollah fighters will be killed, he charged.

Responding to previous accusations, the Israel Defense Forces said "all the weapons and ammunitions used by the IDF are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards."

Bomblets from American-made cluster bombs have been found in areas where Israeli forces battled Hezbollah guerrillas during the 34-day war that ended on August 14.

During the conflict the United States repeatedly warned Israel to avoid civilian targets but refrained from criticizing specific Israeli military tactics.

Last week, the U.S. State Department announced it had begun an inquiry into the alleged Israeli use of American-made cluster bombs in southern Lebanon.

The inquiry will seek to determine whether Israel violated agreements with the United States that restrict when the weapons can be used.

The Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on the sale of cluster ammunitions to Israel after a congressional investigation found Israel had misused such weapons during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Saying that 90 percent of the cluster bombs that the Israel Defense Forces dropped on southern Lebanon fell in the last three days of the war, Egeland said, "We have to find out why," when Israel knew the conflict was coming to an end.

Egeland said the bombs dropped by the IDF were made by the United States, and said he hopes the "U.S. will talk with the Israelis" on the matter.

Though cluster bombs are not illegal under military conventions, Egeland said, their use is a contradiction of humanitarian law when civilians bear the brunt of the suffering.

Cluster bombs are usually air-dropped shells that eject multiple small bomblets to kill enemy soldiers.

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A cluster bomb in the yard of a house in the southern Lebanese village of Sultaniyeh.

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