Landmine casualties affecting more countries

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Geneva_(dpa) _ Myanmar was the only country that used landmines in the past year, an international coalition reported Friday, adding that Turkey, Greece and Belarus failed to meet their deadlines to destroy stockpiles of the weapon.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines also said Russia was still considered a violator as it had not reported stopping usage. The campaign monitors the treaty on banning the antipersonnel weapon.

"The treaty has made a real difference in saving lives and limbs all over the globe," said Stephen Goose from Human Rights Watch, a member of the campaign.

Still, in 2007, 1,400 people were killed by landmines and nearly 4,000 were injured in some 78 countries, a record number of nations reporting casualties.

Only 2 per cent of the 430 million dollars donated last year to mine action went to victim assistance, according to Handicap International, making recovery more difficult.

Landmines use by non-state entities, most notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), remained a key problem to address, the campaigners said.

Three countries, including Afghanistan, completed destruction of their landmine stockpiles, and three others, including France, finished their mine clearing projects over the past year.

"The global effort to eradicate landmines is succeeding," said Goose.

The report condemned Britain and Venezuela for not taking any steps to clear minefields, particularly in the Falklands and on the border with Columbia.

The organization warned that it would most likely never be possible to clear all landmines globally, though new information was allowing for better demining operations.

About 160 million landmines remained in stockpiles around the world, almost all of which were in the hands of the United States, Russia and China.

"When the political will exists to get rid of the weapons, the militaries have rolled over," said Goose, pointing at the general source of opposition.

Currently, 156 states are party to the landmine treaty, with the notable exceptions of the major stockpilers and Israel, India, Pakistan and the Koreas.

Another convention, banning cluster munitions, is expected to receive over 100 signatories when it is launched next month in Oslo.

The international campaign, which publishes annually the Landmine Monitor, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. dpa sg bve

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