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Nairobi Summit Urges More Progress to Ban Land Mines


Diplomats from countries that have signed a treaty banning land-mine use, production, stockpiling, and transfer are assessing the accord's impact at a conference in Nairobi. Several countries have not yet signed the treaty, including the United States, China and Russia. The United States wanted to sign the treaty, but only if an exception were made to allow the continued use of mines to protect U.S. troops in Korea. But, officials at the meeting say the agreement has been useful even though it is not universal.

Officials at the first-ever Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World say there has been tremendous progress in the global fight to ban land mine use, production, stockpiling, and transfer ever since the Mine Ban Treaty, otherwise known as the Ottawa Convention, came into force five years ago.

But the more than 1,000 delegates consisting of heads of state, government officials, non-government organization representatives, land-mine victims and others gathered in Nairobi for the week-long summit say much still needs to be done to wipe out land mines and to help those injured by the weapon.

"We are really looking forward to big challenges in three major areas," said Martin Barber, director of the U.N. Mine Action Service. "One is to encourage all member states of the United Nations to join the convention so that the anti-personnel land mine becomes a weapon of the past. Second is to help those countries which are seriously mine-affected to clear all their mined areas within the time frame set out by the convention. And the third is to ensure that the people who have survived land mine injuries can be reintegrated into society."

About 37 million anti-personnel mines have been destroyed since the convention was adopted in 1997. At that time, says Mr. Barber, about 50 countries were producing anti-personnel land mines. Now, he says, less than a dozen are doing so, and there is virtually no trade in land mines.

The number of people killed or injured by land mines per year around the world has fallen from 26,000 in the late 1990s to 15,000-20,000 people.

According to the U.N. mine office, 48 countries had ratified and become members of the convention five years ago. Now, 144 countries are members, with Ethiopia being the latest to ratify.

But many countries still have large tracts of land that have not been cleared of mines, the worst being Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Bosnia.

And, more than 40 countries including the United States, China, and Russia have refused to sign the treaty. The Mine Ban Treaty requires member countries to destroy all mines within four years following ratification, and to clear minefields within 10 years.

They must submit an annual report to the United Nations outlining the steps they have taken to follow the convention's requirements. Delegates will be assessing how they have met these deadlines and aim to come up with plans to comply with convention obligations.

A representative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Channareth Tun, told VOA many countries are not adequately assisting land mine victims as required under the convention.

Mr. Tun, whose legs were blown off when he stepped on a land mine more than 20 years ago in Cambodia, urged governments to provide training programs so that people who have lost their limbs can still earn a living. He also called on countries that have not signed the convention to do so.

"Please, try to understand about the suffering people who got injured by land mines, who got injured by war," he said. "Please stop producing [land mines]."

Mr. Tun says he was able to support his family after a non-government organization taught him technical and typing skills in a refugee camp.

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