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U.S. to endorse restrictions on land mines


Princess Di leaves Angola after crusading against land mines

January 17, 1997
Web posted at: 7:30 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Trying to curb a weapon that each year kills or maims 25,000 people worldwide, the United States will pursue a global treaty banning anti-personnel land mines, the White House said Friday.

Under the proposal, the U.S. will support a measure to limit land mines at the conference on disarmament, which opens its 1997 session in Geneva Monday.

But Pentagon sources told CNN that the White House announcement basically repackages existing American land mine policy, one which still falls short of a wider-reaching Canadian measure: an immediate ban on the use of all landmines.

The U.S. opposes that idea, citing the border between North and South Korea as an area where new land mines are still needed.


"The United States will seek to initiate negotiations on a worldwide treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel land mines," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Friday.icon (480K/40 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The ban would apply only to anti-personnel landmines, which are designed to injure people, rather than anti-armor mines, which are made to destroy heavy vehicles.

Russia and China are seen as the primary global suppliers of land mines, more than 100 million of which lie buried or hidden in 64 countries. The problem is particularly severe in formerly war-torn countries such as Angola, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

U.S. to limit mine production

Additionally, President Clinton Friday announced a measure to cap the U.S. military inventory of anti-personnel mines at its current level, about seven million, McCurry said.

Defense Department sources note that the seven million limit won't prevent the U.S. from manufacturing new mines, as long as older ones are destroyed allowing the U.S. to stay under the maximum number.

The U.S. has discussed development of so called "smart mines" that automatically deactivate themselves after a certain amount of time.

Diana promotes cause

The U.S. initiative comes amid a push by the Red Cross to ban landmines, a cause supported this week by Britain's Princess Diana.

During a four-day visit to Angola as a volunteer for the British Red Cross, the 35-year-old mother of two spoke out against the human devastation caused by land mines.

Angola is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and the U.N. is preparing to launch an appeal for $25 million to cover mine-removal operations in the country for 1997.

The Angolan government, participating in a peace plan with the former rebel UNITA movement ending nearly two decades of civil war, invited the princess to visit Luanda, the capital.

"I hope the princess will visit us again. We want to thank her for taking the time off to come and help," Angola's Foreign Minister Venancio de Moura told a small gathering shortly before Diana left Angola Thursday.

Diana brushed aside as "merely a distraction" critics in Britain who said she was meddling in politics by supporting the landmine ban. "I am not a political figure. The fact is, I am a humanitarian figure and always will be," she said.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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