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Last Updated: Friday, 27 February, 2004, 17:51 GMT
US promises 'safer' landmines
With the new policy, de-mining troops may not be needed
The Bush administration has announced a new policy on the use of landmines to minimise the risk to civilians.

Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield said the US would make all its landmines detectable and scrap those not timed to self-destruct.

But Mr Bloomfield confirmed that the US did not intend to sign the international treaty banning mines.

The treaty has been signed by more than 150 nations. Landmines cause an estimated 10,000 casualties a year.

There was a mixed reaction to the US announcement from anti-landmine campaigners.

Find out more about the global landmine problem

The Halo Trust charity said it was pleased with Washington's pledge "to increase the level of funding for mine clearance", saying it would save lives.

But other campaigners said America's insistence to continue using the so-called "smart" mines was a step backward that would undermine the Anti-Landmine Treaty.

US Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said the new policy was a "deeply disappointing rollback" that would encourage other nations to use mines.

Detection boost

Mr Bloomfield, President Bush's special adviser on landmines, told a news conference in Washington that the process of getting rid of landmines not timed to self-destruct would begin in 2006 and was expected to be completed by 2010.

A member of the Australian diving mine clearance team talks to an Australian soldier in Umm Qasr

The Bush plan also proposes a 50% increase - up to $70 million - for a programme providing landmine removal assistance in more than 40 countries.

However, mines already laid on the border between North Korea and South Korea would remain in place and there would not be a commitment to ending the use of all landmines over time, he said.

President Bill Clinton had wanted the US to consider signing the international treaty and had asked the Pentagon to look at alternatives to landmines, the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington reports.

But the Pentagon view is understood to be that at the moment no other technology will do the job, our correspondent says.

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