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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 14:09 GMT
Vietnam vets launch anti-mine scheme
Vietnamese man with old mines
Old mines continue to kill 25 years on
A group of American Vietnam war veterans have launched a scheme to neutralise the millions of unexploded land mines and bombs that litter the Vietnamese countryside.

Explosive legacy
Average of six deaths daily
3.5 million mines and 300,000 tonnes of explosives left uncleared
30 months to make one square km safe
40,000 people killed since the war
Project Renew, backed by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, is a two-year scheme aimed at clearing the tonnes of unexploded ordnance, which claim an average of six new victims a day.

The scheme follows a pledge in November by US President Bill Clinton to provide aid for mine removal during a visit to Vietnam.

The accidental detonation of mines and unexploded bombs is so common that many incidents go unreported in the newspapers.

Vietnamese authorities say nearly 40,000 people have been killed and many more injured by mines and bombs.

Experts have said it would take decades to remove the explosives - the Mines Advisory Group has said it takes two and a half years to make safe a square kilometre of ground.

Private funds

"The project will not only eliminate the mines, but also neutralise the effects of the Vietnam War through education about the dangers of mines," said VVFM director Jan Scruggs, a veteran who served with US forces in Vietnam in 1969.

Rural scene in Vietnam
The countryside is littered with explosives
Project co-ordinators hope the scheme, which has about $250,000 in funding from private business in the US, will be extended to include Cambodia, Laos and other countries affected by land mines.

Mr Scruggs said the project would create a model to be used across the central province of Quang Tri and throughout Vietnam.

Quang Tri - sited in the demilitarised zone separating north and south Vietnam during the war - was the scene of extensive mine planting and bombardment during the war.

Washington's help

As part of its efforts to normalise relations with Vietnam, Washington has offered Vietnam help to remove the mines and unexploded bombs.

Mr Clinton promised US help
During his recent visit, Mr Clinton told mine clearing specialists in Vietnam: "You will have American support until you have found every landmine and every piece of unexploded ordnance.

US officials are trawling their archives for information on the location of mines and bombs.

In the past, mine clearers received little co-operation from the US, which maintained it did not lay mines during the war, blaming the job on its south Vietnamese allies.

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See also:

18 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Clinton's promise on Vietnam 'heroes'
17 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Clinton's Vietnam visit
09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam bomb kills six children
17 Nov 00 | Media reports
Vietnam looks beyond war
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