Pontiff Calls for Mines and Cluster Bombs Ban

Assures Support for Victims of “Devastating” Weapons

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is making an urgent appeal to the whole international community to ban anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs.

The Pope made this request today before praying the midday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. He recalled the United Nations’ 4th International Day for Mine Awareness, observed each year on April 4.

This awareness day, the Pontiff noted, has great importance ten years after the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel mines entered into effect March 1, 1999. The signing of the treaty banning cluster bombs took place in Oslo on December 3, 2008.

“I would like to encourage the countries who have still not yet done so,” he said, “to sign without delay these important instruments of international humanitarian law, which the Holy See has always supported.”

“Moreover, I express my support for any measure intended to guarantee necessary assistance for the victims of these devastating weapons,” the Holy Father added.

As of today, 156 countries — 80% of the countries of the world — have adhered to the Ottawa Treaty. There are 39 countries — 2 of which originally signed the treaty without having then ratified it — that have not formally adhered to the treaty and remain in disagreement with the rejection of these munitions. Among these latter countries are China, Russia and the United States.

Since 1997, about 42 million anti-personnel mines that were held in the arsenals of various countries have been destroyed. Only 13 of the more than 50 countries that manufactured anti-personnel mines in the early 1990s still have the capacity to produce them.

Cluster bombs, which have containers that hold hundreds of smaller bombs that often remain unexploded after hitting the ground, have been known to later do harm to civilian populations. They have been used in 21 countries, including Bosnia, Iraq, Serbia, Kosovo and Lebanon.

In Oslo, only three of the countries that were present at the meeting did not approve the document: Japan, Romania and Poland; among those absent were the United States, Russia and China.

Thus far, six countries have presented documents of ratification of the Oslo Treaty at the United Nations in New York.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text of Angelus address: http://zenit.org/article-25579?l=english

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