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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 15:17 GMT

UK Politics

British Army destroys landmines

Robertson: Brtain is leading the way on landmines

The British Army has destroyed its entire stock of anti-personnel landmines, according to Defence Secretary George Robertson.

Mr Robertson said: "The army's mine destruction programme is now complete. No British soldier will ever again lay an anti-personnel landmine."

[ image: Moves to ban landmines followed Diana's death]
Moves to ban landmines followed Diana's death
The statement means that Britain's army has destroyed all its landmines four years before the deadline set out in the Ottawa Convention.

The convention, drawn up in the wake of the death of Diana Princess of Wales, a fervent campaigner against landmines, comes into force on 1 March.

The Defence Secretary added: "I was determined that the UK should take the lead and set an example for others to follow.

"Last year I announced that we would destroy all Ministry of Defence stocks by 1 January 2000.

"The British army's destruction programme has been particularly successful and is now complete."

The Royal Air Force still possess some mines, although the government says they will be destroyed by the end of the year.

Britain has not manufactured or exported landmines since the 1980s and British forces last used mines in the Gulf War in 1991.

Major powers yet to sign

Although 121 nations have signed the Ottawa Convention, some major powers including China, the US, and Russia have not.

Mr Robertson said: "I hope the accelerated destruction of British Army mines will send another clear and concrete message to those nations who have not yet signed the Ottawa Treaty.

[ image: The very young are often victims of landmines]
The very young are often victims of landmines
"The legacy of anti-personnel mines is a modern plague. "

At a ceremony to mark the occasion, Mr Robertson handed in the army's last defused mines to charities that have worked for their destruction.

Director of the Halo Trust Susan Mitchell said: "This is very much in line with our policy of solving the world's mines problem by physically destroying mines, not just talking about it."

Mr Robertson went on to say: "The destruction of stocks should not be allowed to hide the on-going challenge of removing those mines that are already in the ground."

Under the terms of the Ottawa Conventions, the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines will be banned by 1 March 2003.

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