By ANNE GEARAN
The State Department is investigating whether Israel misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon.
The United Nations said unexploded cluster bombs — anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area — litter homes, gardens and highways in south Lebanon.
"We are definitely looking into these allegations and we’ll see where they lead," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said Friday.
The inquiry will determine whether the munitions were used and if so, how, Gallegos said.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center refused to comment on the investigation. She said that it’s not illegal to use the cluster bombs against soldiers or enemy fighters, but the Geneva Conventions bar their use in civilian areas.
The State Department investigation will look at whether Israel’s use of the cluster bombs violated secret agreements with the United States.
Gallegos had no estimate of how long the inquiry by the department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls would take.
The Israeli army said all weapons it uses "are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards."
Cluster bombs are typically used against tanks and explode upon impact with steel. In the conflict in Lebanon, the shells were fired into urban and rural areas where Israel thought Hezbollah guerrillas might be hiding. Many hit the ground or pavement and did not explode.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press