Greece violating land mine pact

Greece, Turkey and Belarus have all violated an international treaty by not destroying land mine stockpiles, and 15 other countries, including Britain, will miss their 2009 clearance targets, a watchdog said yesterday. The International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (ICBL) said that more than 5,400 people were killed or maimed last year by anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other ordnance that can lie dormant for decades before exploding. In its 1,155-page Land Mine Monitor Report, the coalition of nongovernmental groups said that while trade in land mines is now «virtually nonexistent,» many countries are moving too slowly to get rid of the crippling weapons. Denmark, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, Britain and Venezuela, who are among those seeking more time to clear their mined areas, should all have finished by now, said the ICBL, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Britain has not even begun minesweeping in the Falkland Islands, where it fought a war with Argentina in 1982, and Venezuela has said it gains some benefit from mines that keep Colombian guerrillas off its territory, according to Stuart Casey-Maslen, editor of Landmine Monitor. «It is not acceptable that (these) countries… have failed to clear a single mined area in the last nine years and expect to be granted extensions,» he told reporters ahead of a November 24-28 meeting of the pact’s 156 signatory states in Geneva. Greece and Turkey have a combined stockpile of 4.2 million anti-personnel mines, and Belarus has 3.4 million remaining to destroy under the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Convention. Though the countries will not face direct sanctions for missing their deadlines, Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch said they would face diplomatic pressure to quickly finish the job: «The international stigma against these weapons is powerful.» Nearly 42 million mines have been destroyed under the pact, which was struck in 1997 and came into force in 1999. (Reuters)