Land-mine ban `will strengthen hand of UN in tackling conflicts'

 

The ratification of a treaty to ban land-mines will strengthen the hand of the UN as it attempts to tackle conflicts across the world, the Minister of State, Mr Dan Wallace, told the Dail. He was speaking during a debate on the Ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

The treaty features a complete ban on land-mines, the destruction of stockpiles within four years, and the clearance of minefields within 10 years.

Mr Wallace said that landmines were "totally indiscriminate" and took a particular toll on civilians. They were laid in their hundreds of thousands and many remained as death-traps long after the conclusion of hostilities. "I sincerely hope that the prohibition of these terrible devices will be implemented immediately."

Fine Gael's foreign Affairs spokesman, Mr Gay Mitchell, said that according to the Red Cross 26,000 people were killed or maimed every year by land-mines. Almost 20 per cent were children under 15.

The productive potential of entire regions had been destroyed because of land-mines. "In Afghanistan and Cambodia up to 35 per cent more land could be made available for farming if it were not for the threat of landmines. That area is equivalent to more than twice Britain's cereal producing area."

The Democratic Left leader, Mr Proinsias De Rossa, expressed disappointment of the attitude of the US government, which said it was not in a position to "forgo the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of anti-personnel mines for the foreseeable future".

He said about110 million mines still posed a threat in 70 countries.