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Monday, March 1, 1999 Published at 01:10 GMT


World

Scourge of the landmine

A soldier clears a landmine after the Gulf War

The UK and Canada championed the Nobel-prize winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

More than 150 countries signed the Ottawa Treaty to ban the use and production of anti-personnel mines.


Defence Correspondent Mark Laity: "Treaty ... a major step"
The British Army recently reported that it has already destroyed its 2 million mines, while the Royal Air Force will follow suit by 2000.

Discarded landmines, which are notoriously difficult to detect and remove, are estimated to kill or maim one person every 20 minutes worldwide.

Most of the victims are non-combatants, often blown up long after conflicts have ended or moved away.

Mapping of minefields in blackspots such as Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia has been practically non-existent making the job of monitoring and clearance both hazardous and expensive.

Cheap and efficient

Military planners insist landmines are indispensable in denying territory to enemy forces, but they also render valuable agricultural land useless until they are cleared away.

The mass production of landmines also makes them one of the cheapest and most effective weapons on the market.

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali described mines as "the most lethal and long-lasting form of pollution yet encountered".

The battlefields of Cambodia, Angola and Bosnia are littered with mines - the UN estimates there are many as 100 million in place worldwide.

But it is much easier and quicker to lay and hide a mine than to detect and disarm it.

Clearance can cost up to £750 a mine and the weapon can remain active for up to 50 years long after most conflicts have ended.



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