Britain 'falling behind' in landmine clean-up

Britain is one of 12 countries likely to miss a 2009 deadline to clear all land mines from its territory, campaigners said today.

Britain is one of 12 countries likely to miss a 2009 deadline to clear all land mines from its territory, campaigners said today.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines said the British government has not even begun to clear the estimated 16,000 mines left on the Falkland Islands since its 1982 war with Argentina.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Mozambique, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe are also unlikely to complete the clearance process by the self-imposed deadline of March 1, 2009, the ICBL said in its annual report.

“We’d be happy to be proved wrong,” said Ian Doucet, chief editor of the report.

The prediction – based on official and non-governmental reports from countries that have signed the 1997 Ottawa Convention against land mines – “is an estimate, but we think it’s a fairly sound estimate,” Mr Doucet told journalists in Geneva, where the group spearheaded by American Jody Williams has its headquarters.

Britain blamed “complex bilateral negotiations” for the delay, according to an official quoted in the report. The status of the Falklands remains disputed by Argentina, which maintains its claim to sovereignty over the South Atlantic territory.

Britain will present a detailed report on the situation in the Falklands at a meeting of signatories to the anti-mine convention in Jordan next week.

Landmines became a prominent political issue in Britain following a campaign by the late Princess Diana, who called for an international ban on their use shortly before she died in 1997.

The report said France, which uses mines to protect a military installation in the east African nation of Djibouti, also hasn’t begun clearing operations despite committing to the deadline.

In total 217,000 anti-personnel mines, 18,000 anti-vehicle mines and more than 2.15 million pieces of debris known as “explosive remnants of war” were destroyed in 2006, the year covered in the report.

Four countries – Iraq, Indonesia, Kuwait and Montenegro – joined the Ottawa treaty prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of land mines during the period, taking the number of signatories to 155.

Overall, the report paints a positive picture of global efforts to neutralise the threat of land mines, he said.

Last year 5,751 people were injured or killed in land mine explosions, down 16 percent on 2005, according to the report.

Six countries – Angola, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Latvia, Montenegro and Serbia - destroyed their existing stockpiles of the weapon, while only Burma and Russia, which are both outside the treaty, deployed land mines in 2006.

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