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UN committed to ridding world of landmine threat, Annan tells treaty meeting

UN committed to ridding world of landmine threat, Annan tells treaty meeting

Countries party to an international treaty banning landmines gathered today at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva for their latest meeting to examine worldwide progress in the destruction of these weapons.

The Ottawa Convention, as the treaty is commonly known, completely outlaws the possession and use of anti-personnel landmines, and also contains rules for landmine clearance, the destruction of landmine stockpiles, and assistance to victims of landmines.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that the Convention now had 122 States Parties, while three more countries have submitted their ratification instruments.

Despite these achievements, serious challenges lay ahead, he said in a message to the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction

"Many countries have not joined the Convention," said the message, which was delivered on Mr. Annan's behalf by Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. "Others that have joined will face serious difficulties in meeting their four-year deadline for stockpile destruction or their mine-clearance commitments. And even if every anti-personnel landmine were cleared from the planet, the need for assistance to victims would remain."

The Secretary-General pledged that the UN would continue doing its part to turn the Convention into a truly universal prohibition on anti-personnel landmines.

Last Friday, Afghanistan, which has about 150 to 300 injured or killed by mines every month, became the latest country to complete accession to the treaty. The country has committed to destroying stockpiled mines within four years, and those in the ground within 10 years.

The UN Mine Action Programme has allocated $50million for Afghanistan this year, and is employing over 6,000 Afghan nationals to carry out the task.