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Obama: US Phasing Out Land Mines

  • VOA News

FILE - Afghan army soldier Ali Raza, 30, searches for land mines with a metal detector during an IED, or improvised explosive device, defusing training exercise in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.

FILE - Afghan army soldier Ali Raza, 30, searches for land mines with a metal detector during an IED, or improvised explosive device, defusing training exercise in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say the country is moving to phase out its stockpile of land mines designed for use against people.

The Obama administration says the U.S. will no longer produce or acquire anti-personnel land mines and plans to eventually join an international treaty banning their use.

Friday's announcement came at a conference in Maputo, Mozambique, aimed at reviewing the 15-year-old treaty, known as the Ottawa Convention.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S. delegation made clear that the country is "diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention."

But Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the United States Campaign to Ban Land mines, says that declaration is not enough.

"It makes no sense for the U.S. to acknowledge the weapons should be banned because of the humanitarian harm they cause while retaining the option to use them for years to come," Goose said, adding that the U.S. should set a target date for joining the Mine Ban Treaty, commit to not using the weapons and begin destroying its stockpiles.

The United States has not produced land mines since 1997 -- the year the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted -- but Human Rights Watch says the U.S. stockpile is believed to consist of some nine million self-destruct anti-personnel mines.

A total of 161 countries have signed the treaty, which went into effect in 1999, but China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States are not among them.

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