Wikileaks: Cluster bomb plot to ‘mislead parliament’

By Peter Wozniak

As the Wikileaks revelations continue to shake the world of diplomacy, secret cables suggest that British officials made a deal with the US to allow the country to keep cluster bombs in the UK despite the ban on the munitions which Gordon Brown signed.

According to documents published by the Guardian, the “temporary agreement” to allow the US to maintain the munitions in bases on British soil was devised by Whitehall officials, but the government was warned off telling parliament of the plans.

David Miliband, then foreign secretary, reportedly gave the plan, “accepted at highest levels of the government”, the go ahead, despite the fact that foreign office ministers Chris Bryant and Glenys Kinnock told MPs cluster bombs would be removed from British territory.

Nicholas Pickard, the Foreign Office’s security policy unit head, was quoted in a cable as saying: “It would be better for the US government and HMG not to reach final agreement on this temporary agreement understanding until after the ratification process is completed in parliament, so that they can tell parliamentarians that they have requested the US government to remove its cluster munitions by 2013, without complicating/muddying the debate by having to indicate that this request is open to exceptions.”

Junior ministers are not suggested to have been aware of the plan to allow the US to continue to stockpile cluster bombs in British territories such as Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

The foreign office categorically denied misleading parliament and condemned the release of the diplomatic cables.

Gordon Brown defied military and US pressure to back the treaty in 2008, which forbids the use and, crucially, the stockpiling of the weapons. The US consistently opposed the treaty, arguing the munitions have valid military uses.

Cluster bombs can often lie unexploded for decades, but are often still capable of causing deaths.