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U.S. Joins International Mine Cleanup Treaty

November 29, 2003|From Associated Press

GENEVA — World governments approved a treaty Friday that would require countries to clean up unexploded mines and other munitions in territories they controlled after a war.

Ambassadors from 92 nations, including the United States, Russia and China, agreed to the language in the accord. It is the first disarmament treaty accepted by the Bush administration.

Under the treaty, which still has to be separately approved by each country, nations promise to remove or destroy all unexploded munitions, including enemy ordnance, in territory they control after a conflict. Governments also have agreed "without delay after the cessation of hostilities" to give the United Nations and aid groups information to help locate and clear explosives.

"The treaty is an important recognition that states are responsible for eliminating this serious threat to civilians in the aftermath of war," said Jacques Forster of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Until now, nations have been under no obligation to clear munitions, leaving ordinary people to face the daily risk of being killed or maimed in former war zones, Forster said.

Some delegations to the negotiations have expressed concern that the agreement lacks the authority to be enforced. "Some fundamental articles have too many qualifiers," Swedish representative Anneli Lindahl Kenny said.

There are no precise data about the amount of unexploded weapons around the world, but in Iraq alone, U.S. officials have said there are up to 1 million tons, which will take years to remove.

The treaty was negotiated in less than a year and is the first agreement produced under the conventional weapons accord since 1996.

The treaty will be sent to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and then will be open for ratification by governments.

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