In the end, the group voted to resume discussions next year to develop a proposal, Human Rights Watch said.
"The Convention on Conventional Weapons has failed again to deliver any move toward addressing cluster munitions," said Steve Goose, director of the rights group's arms division. "Any country serious about dealing with the horrific human cost of cluster bombs should throw its weight behind the Oslo process and sign a ban treaty in 2008."
Russia played a leading role in opposing any proposal that included a negotiating mandate, joined by Belarus, China and Cuba. Brazil, India, Pakistan, South Korea and the United States would not support any mandate explicitly calling for prohibition of cluster bombs or with a hard deadline.
Cluster bombs separate into smaller bomblets. In Vietnam, people continue to die after accidentally setting off unexploded bomblets dropped more than 30 years ago.