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Landmine Treaty Has Made Significant Difference, Say Supporters

Eight years ago on March 1st, the international landmine treaty took effect. The treaty bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of the anti-personnel weapons.

Currently, 153 nations have joined the treaty. The United States, so far, has not. The Bush administration says it has not been able to reconcile the treaty with US national security interests. It says the issue of anti-vehicle landmines should also be addressed. The United States provides aid for mine clearing and humanitarian programs for mine victims.

The Bush administration adds the United States has already ratified a landmine treaty – the “Amended Mines Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.”

Simona Beltrami is the advocacy director for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. From London, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua on the effectiveness of the treaty so far.

“The treaty has been a great success in trying to put an end to the human suffering caused by landmines. We can see that already over 80 percent of the world’s countries have signed up to the treaty, have become full partners to the treaty…however, as long as there are states that stay outside of the Ottawa treaty club…there will be no guarantee that no more landmines can be used again.” she says.

When the landmine treaty was first signed in Ottawa, Canada on December 3rd and 4th, 1997, some sub-Saharan African countries were infested with the weapons due to civil war. Beltrami says, “In terms of new use, Africa stands in a very good place. Because almost all the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, apart from Somalia, which doesn’t really have a government at the moment, are members the mine ban treaty. So, there’s only sporadic use and mainly by non state-armed groups. But…there are still mines in the ground. There are still heavily contaminated countries like Angola, for instance, or Mozambique. And landmines continue to pose a serious threat to the lives, livelihoods and to the possibilities of development in many African countries.”

She says that she is concerned because some countries are spending less money on mine clearing operations.

In all, 42 countries have not signed the landmine treaty. Besides the United States, these include China, Pakistan, India and Russia, as well as most countries in the Middle East.

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