US goes back on landmine pledge

Published February 29, 2004

WASHINGTON, Feb 28: The United States on Friday abandoned a sweeping land mine ban envisioned by the Clinton administration and announced it will keep using "smart" mines even though it pledged not to use other mines after 2010.

The new policy allows the use of sophisticated land mines that have devices to automatically defuse the explosives within days but bans "dumb" mines that cannot self-destruct and pose a risk long after battlefields return to peaceful use.

The decision aims to strike a balance between the military superpower's need to retain effective weapons and humanitarian concerns, United States President George Bush's special representative for mine action said. Mines around the world pose a risk for about 60 million civilians, Lincoln Bloomfield added. But Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, called it a "deeply disappointing rollback" and said it would serve to encourage other militaries to continue using mines.

Other campaigners said the decision to continue using "smart" mines would undermine a treaty designed to outlaw the devices altogether.

The new policy departs from the Clinton goal of banning all land mines designed to kill troops in a plan that set a target of 2006 for giving up antipersonnel mines if the Pentagon was able to develop alternatives. -Reuters

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