Kabul accepts treaty banning mines

Monday, July 29, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The leaders of Afghanistan, probably the world's most land mine-afflicted country, announced Sunday they would join the five-year-old global treaty banning the weapons.

"Every Afghan woman, man and child will rest assured that no one in this country will ever again be targeted by antipersonnel land mines," Foreign Minister Abdullah, speaking with President Hamid Karzai by his side, said at the opening of an international conference on Afghanistan's scourge of mines.

The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 200,000 Afghans have been killed or wounded by mines in 23 years of war.

The recent anti-Taliban offensive heightened the dangers.

Perhaps close to 2,000 U.S. bombs remain unexploded on the ground in Afghanistan, based on estimates by a U.N. mine-clearance specialist.

Afghanistan would become the 126th country to fully accept the Ottawa Convention, the 1997 treaty whose parties agree to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of land mines. The United States, Russia and China are among the countries that have not signed; another 18 have signed but not ratified.

In addition to destroying the government's stocks of mines, all armed factions in Afghanistan will be urged to destroy theirs, Abdullah said.

In addition, many of the thousands of missiles and bombs dropped by U.S. forces since Oct. 7 did not detonate and remain scattered around the countryside.

Mine-clearance specialists here are concerned particularly about unexploded antipersonnel cluster bomblets, more than 200 of which are scattered from each U.S. cluster bomb.

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