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Friday, July 31, 1998 Published at 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK

UK Politics

UK bans landmines

A landmine kills or maims someone every 20 minutes

The government has announced an immediate total ban on the use of landmines by British troops.

BBC Defence Correspondent Mark Laity: "Early ban will be widely welcomed"
Defence Secretary George Robertson, in a Commons written reply, said instructions to that effect had been issued to all headquarters and training establishments.

The announcement ends an exemption which would have allowed the use of landmines in "exceptional circumstances".

"We intend this to be an international example to others," Mr Robertson said.

Tribute to Diana

The move means the ban is in place in good time for the anniversary next month of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, who played a major role in the campaign to outlaw the weapons under the Ottawa convention..

[ image: The Red Cross estimates 120 million mines have been laid]
The Red Cross estimates 120 million mines have been laid
Mr Robertson said that other actions the Ministry of Defence was taking to convention on landmines, such as the destruction of stockpiles and assistance to humanitarian de-mining projects, were already well established.

Earlier on Friday, the defence secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the UK would now use its "considerable authority" to persuade countries such as Russia and China to stop making the landmines.

The defence secretary and anti-landmines campaigner Lou McGrath on the Today programme
"We must now go out there and use Britain's moral authority to make sure that our position and the position of the 40-odd countries that are signed up to the (Ottawa) convention becomes the international standard," he added.

The BBC's Defence Correspondent Mark Laity says in practice the move is mostly symbolic.

The government was said to be keen to impose a total ban before the anniversary of the princess's death in a month's time.

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