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Anti-Landmine Movement Gathers Momentum - 2002-09-20

Activists are hailing this week's meeting in Geneva to access progress on a 1997 treaty that bans the use of landmines. More than 130 countries and 700 participants agreed to step up action to remove and destroy mines and aid landmine victims.

Activists say more than one million mines must be destroyed by March of next year if states are to uphold their treaty commitments.

Stephen Goose of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines says most of the 45 countries involved are on track to meet the deadline, but a few are lagging behind. "We have Djibouti at the top of our list," he said. "This is a country which we think doesn't have very large stockpiles but we don't know because they have not met their obligations to report on their stockpiles yet. They should have several years ago. Their deadline is the first of March 2003."

Mr. Goose says Turkmenistan, which has more than 700,000 mines, and the Gulf state of Qatar must also meet the same deadline. Turkmenistan had asked for an extension, but the treaty does not grant that. In the case of Qatar, although it reports having no landmine stocks of its own, he says, it does store mines for the United States military. "They have a problem because the United States has stockpiles of anti-personnel mines in Qatar," said Stephen Goose. "If those mines are determined to be under Qatari control, they are obligated to get them out of the country."

49 countries, including the United States, have not signed the treaty. The United States has not produced anti-personnel mines since 1997, but reserves the right to do so.

Landmine activists say this week they witnessed Comoros and Cameroon as the newest countries to adopt the treaty. They say Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine are interested in signing the land mine ban once they know funding is available to help them destroy stocks.

The 1997 treaty commits members to destroy all anti-personnel landmines and requires them never to stockpile, produce, trade or transfer mines. The activists say more funds are needed to aid victims of landmine incidents.