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Afghanistan Pledges to Sign Landmine Treaty - 2002-07-28


Afghanistan says it will join the international treaty to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.

The announcement was made by Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who said he expects the Cabinet to ratify the treaty on Monday. Since Afghanistan has no legislature, Cabinet approval is all that is needed to accede to the treaty.

"Let me categorically say that we will together to destroy each and every landmine in this country and end the suffering, however long it takes," said Mr. Abdullah, speaking at the opening of a four-day conference in Kabul to promote a total ban of landmines.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the conference that, with enough support, Afghanistan could complete the job of clearing million of mines in the next seven years.

The United Nations says as many as 10 Afghans are killed or injured in mine explosions every day. The Red Cross says 200,000 Afghans have been crippled by mines planted during 23 years of conflict.

Among those attending this week's conference is Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her anti-landmine campaigning.

She was asked at a news conference if Russia has a special obligation to help Afghanistan, because troops of the former Soviet Union planted so many mine fields in the country. "Russia is going to be building a center here for training and mine action here in this country," said Ms. Williams. "More than that, I honestly do not know. But I do, obviously, believe that they have some responsibility in being involved in cleaning up the mess that they made."

The fledgling Afghan government also faces the task of convincing militias in the provinces to continue to give up their mines. Mr. Abdullah says the Defense Ministry will work with local authorities to try to persuade all factions to support the ban.