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Anti-Landmine Group Worries About Possible Use in Iraq

It has been five years since a global treaty to ban land mines was established. This week in Geneva, officials from many countries, as well as from groups opposed to land mines, are meeting to assess what effect the treaty has had on the effort to rid the world of landmines.

The United Nations calls the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty the most successful arms control mechanism in the world. Since its passage, 126 countries have made the treaty part of their national legislation, the latest being Afghanistan, and 18 others say they plan to. Fifty countries have not signed the treaty.

But while U.N. officials speak highly of the treaty, they also acknowledge that much remains to be done. That feeling is shared by Jody Williams, head of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations. Ms. Williams and her organization were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Speaking in Geneva Monday, she said her group is as busy as it ever was.

"We continue to work in open partnership to resolve both interpretation questions of the treaty, to make sure that the mines are out of the ground and to make sure that the victim's needs are met, so that we strengthen this vision of a world in which the doctrine, which underlies global security, is human security and not a radically new military doctrine," said Ms. Willaims.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has warned against the use of landmines in a possible attack against Iraq. A spokesman for the group, Stephen Goose, says there are already too many land mines in Iraq and says those opposed to Saddam Hussein should not consider laying any more.

"Our view is it is conceivable that they would be useful to the U.S. military," he said. "But are they essential to victory? No. Will the longer-term humanitarian problem that they cause exceed any benefit? We think that the answer to that is definitely yes and that is why we say they should not be used."

Mr. Goose says the United States, which has not signed the mine ban treaty, has more than 11 million landmines stockpiled. He adds that although the United States is the largest contributor to mine action programs, it still has reserved the right to use and produce mines.