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Land Mines Imperil 2,000 Iraqi Towns

January 08, 2006|From Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — Land mines and other unexploded ordnance threaten one in five Iraqi communities and will have to be cleaned up before the country can get back on its feet, a U.S.-based group said Friday.

A survey of 10,049 communities conducted by the Washington-based Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation found that 2,029 were contaminated by mines and other explosive munitions, the group reported.

"It comes as a surprise to no one that after decades of internal and international conflict, Iraq is littered with land mines and bombs," said Joe Donahue, the foundation's vice president.

"The present conflict notwithstanding, Iraq has no hope of healing and recovering its economic footing without prompt attention to this problem by the rest of the world," he said in a statement.

Iraq is among the most mine-infested countries in the world after the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and decades of internal conflict, the foundation said.

In conducting the survey, financed mainly by the U.S. State Department with support from the U.N. Development Program, foundation staff members hold town meetings to help residents map unexploded mines and steer clear of those areas.

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