New U.S. Land Mines Policy "a Missed Opportunity"

Says Bishop Ricard of Pensacola

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 3, 2004 ( The Bush administration’s decision to continue allowing certain types of land mines «steps back» from an earlier commitment that could have led to a ban on the weapons, a bishop says.

Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the bishops’ International Policy Committee, said the administration’s policy «expands the leadership role of the United States in aiding the victims of land mines,» but called the future reliance on the devices «a missed opportunity.»

«The administration has reiterated previous commitments to end the use of land mines that do not self-destruct,» he said.

«Regrettably, U.S. policy now envisions the indefinite use of self-destructing land mines, and thereby steps back from an earlier pledge to join the more than 150 nations that have already signed the Mine Ban Treaty, if alternatives to antipersonnel land mines could be found,» said the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

«With Pope John Paul II and Catholic bishops from around the world, the bishops in this country have long called for a ban on these indiscriminate and deadly weapons and have urged the U.S. government to sign the Mine Ban Treaty,» Bishop Ricard said.

«Much progress has been made in the past decade toward acting on the moral imperative of ending the use of land mines. The continued reliance of the world’s largest military on these insidious weapons will only delay the day when the world will be freed from this scourge,» he lamented.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, had expressed this position last month at the meeting of experts of the Convention on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines.

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