updated 1/29/2007 11:21:21 AM ET 2007-01-29T16:21:21

The United States said on Monday that Israel may have violated an agreement with Washington in its use of U.S.-made cluster bombs during last July’s war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

“There were likely violations,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, adding that a preliminary classified report was being sent to the U.S. Congress on Monday by the State Department indicating possible violations of a “use agreement” between the United States and Israel over the cluster bombs.

He declined to say how Israel had violated U.S. rules in its use of U.S. made rockets armed with cluster bombs in Lebanon.

A probe was opened last year after reports that three types of American cluster bombs were found in southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian deaths. 

Israel has defended its right to use cluster bombs and says it only deploys them in accordance with international law. 

Cluster bombs burst into bomblets and spread out near the ground.

The United Nations has called for a freeze on the use of those bombs in or near populated areas.                 

Under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, if the U.S. government believes a foreign country violated agreements over how U.S-made weapons were used, the administration must draw up a report and send its findings to Congress. 

“This is a preliminary finding and because it also involves the agreements about use (of munitions), which are classified, I cannot get into the details,” said McCormack. 

He said the Israeli government had been “responsive and transparent” in providing information for the report, which also drew information from other unspecified sources. 

“This is not a final judgment ... but we do take our obligations under the law very seriously,” he said. “We don’t flinch from the facts,” added McCormack. 

The next move is up to Congress which must decide whether action should be taken against Israel or if further information is needed, said McCormack.

The United States and Italy are among nations trying to remove tens of thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets in southern Lebanon.

The bombs, which are meant to explode near the ground but often do not, pose a huge danger to displaced civilians trying to return to villages after the 34-day war.

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