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The BBC's Jane Warr
"The Government says it is not breaching the Ottawa Treaty"
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The BBC's Paul Bomford reports
"Britain ... likes to portray itself as ... a moral leader in this area"
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British Defence Minister, John Spellar
"They are undermining their own campaign"
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Richard Lloyd, director of Landmine Action
"The potential lethality of these is very much a potential problem"
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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 07:31 GMT
Western nations accused over landmines
Marine searching for mine
There are an estimated one million landmines still buried in Bosnia
Two years after the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines came into force, a report says some Western governments are still stock-piling weapons that could have a similar effect.

Landmine Action says several Western governments have developed anti-tank mines equipped with highly sensitive anti-handling devices, which explode in close human proximity.

They [Landmine Action] are undermining their own campaign

John Spellar, UK Defence Minister

The director of Landmine Action, Richard Lloyd, told the BBC: "The military thinking behind these systems is that they will be targeted at civilians."

The Ottawa Treaty bans the manufacture, stockpiling and use of all anti-personnel mines.

These indiscriminate weapons have been sown liberally in troublespots around the world.

They continue to kill and maim long after the conflicts have ended and most of their victims are innocent civilians going about their daily lives.

Most Western governments - including Britain - have signed up and complied with the Treaty's requirements.

Similar weapons

But Landmine Action says that while they may be abiding by the letter of the agreement, they are breaking its spirit by continuing to keep the anti-tank or anti-vehicle mines.

cluster bomb
A deadly legacy of conflict

The UK Ministry of Defence insists that Britain's anti-tank mines cannot be set off in this way.

Minister John Spellar accused Landmine Action of undermining its own campaign by discouraging countries like Russia, China and the United States from signing up to the Ottawa Treaty.

"They [Landmine Action] are actually undermining their own campaign which I think is very unfortunate given the very good work that they've done previously," said Mr Spellar.

Our correspondent says it is clear, though, that a huge technological effort is underway to find other forms of area-denial weapons that will not fall under the Treaty's provisions.

And Landmine Action warns that the pace of technical change means that vigilance is needed to ensure that new generations of weapons do not threaten non-combatants in future conflicts.

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See also:

23 Jun 99 | Europe
The deadly debris of war
22 Jun 99 | Europe
'Widespread' use of landmines
23 Jun 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
A refugee's tragic return
19 Jun 99 | Europe
More refugees injured by mines
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