Antipersonnel Mines Still Widely Used

U.S., Russia, China, Iran and Iraq Among the Producers

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2002 ( Despite the campaign that won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, antipersonnel mines have been laid in 26 countries over the past year, a magazine reports.

In fact, there are still 54 countries that have not subscribed to the international Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the production, sale and installation of the lethal devices, according to an article by Father Marcello Storgato in the Xaverian missionaries´ monthly, Today´s Mission.

Among the 54 are Russia, China, the United States, Finland and Turkey, as well as many former Soviet states and Middle Eastern countries.

John Paul II vigorously supported the «Ottawa process» that culminated in the Convention. The initiative was promoted especially by Nobel laureate Jody Williams and the Canadian government.

«In the last year, new mines were laid in a good 26 countries [including]: Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Colombia.»

In Asia and the Mideast «the list continues with Afghanistan, the Philippines, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. The European states include Georgia, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Russia,» the article adds.

«A good 41 states have stopped producing antipersonnel land mines. Among these, there are a great deal of producers of the 1970s, 1980s and first years of the 1990s,» Father Storgato adds.

The article cites nations still producing the mines: Egypt, the United States, Cuba, China, North Korea, South Korea, India, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam and Russia.

The situation in Afghanistan is especially worrying, because it is one of the countries with the largest number of mines in its territory, the article observes.

According to U.N. sources, mines were laid in some 70 countries in 1997. Antipersonnel mines, introduced during World War I, kill or wound a person every 20 minutes. Every year, 26,000 people, mostly civilians, die from the weapons.

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