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Saturday, November 29, 1997 Published at 18:35 GMT



Despatches


Canada says it will be the first country to ratify a global ban on anti-personnel landmines. The treaty will be signed at a meeting in Ottawa next week and the Canadian government has rushed through a law to ratify the treaty in time for the opening ceremonies. Sean Eckford reports:

Canadian officials say 105 countries are now ready to sign the treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines and more than 135 will be represented at the treaty conference next week.

Since the "Ottawa process" to ban landmines was started last year, Canada's Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister have been working to bring as many countries on board as possible.

But earlier this month, Prime Minister Jean Chretien set another goal. At a ceremony to destroy Canada's last remaining mines, the prime minister announced that he wanted Canada to be the first country to ratify the treaty.

Last week, the government introduced a bill in the House of Commons banning the use, production and stockpiling of landmines in Canada.

With the help of unprecedented all-party support in both the Commons and the Senate, the bill was passed in only one week, and with the passage of amendments to some existing legislation, Canada is now in a position to ratify a landmines ban. Being the first country to sign the treaty is an important symbolic gesture for Canada.

40 countries must ratify the ban before it becomes internationally binding and Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says the Canadian ratification will be used to get the ball rolling.

He says Canada will sign and present its ratification to the United Nations Secretary-General at the opening of the treaty conference on December 2 in Ottawa.





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