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Clinton Pledges Land Mine Ban

President Clinton has pledged that the United States will sign the international treaty that bans anti-personnel mines by the year 2006, but only if the Pentagon comes up with suitable alternatives by then, it was disclosed Friday.

The pledge was contained in a letter from National Security Adviser Sandy Berger to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a strong supporter of measures to eliminate land mines.

Despite the condition Mr. Clinton imposed, it is the first time the United States has set a target date for signing the land mine convention, which was signed by more than 100 countries in Ottawa last year.

An exposed land mine.
"The United States will sign the Ottawa convention by 2006 if we succeed in identifying and fielding suitable alternatives to our anti-personnel mines and mixed anti-tank systems by then," Berger said in his letter.

Physicians for Human Rights, a group that opposes land mines, welcomed Mr. Clinton's policy shift but said the eight-year delay would undermine the ban-mine effort. "U.S. leadership is needed now to urge other recalcitrant countries to sign the treaty," it said.

The U.S. position became known at the conclusion of a U.S.-sponsored international conference on ways to coordinate the global land mine effort.

Among major countries, the United States is the only one that has declined to sign the land mine treaty.

The administration maintains that such weapons are needed on the Korean peninsula to deter an invasion from North Korea.

Berger's letter also contained other commitments:

  • The United States will destroy by 1999 all non-self destructing anti-personnel land mines, except for those needed for Korea.

  • It will end the use of all such land mines outside Korea by 2003, including those that self-destruct.

  • It will aggressively pursue the objective of have anti-personnel land mine alternatives ready for Korea by 2006, including those that self-destruct.

  • It will search aggressively for alternatives to mixed anti-tank systems. That is a reference to anti-tank mines that are coupled with anti-personnel mines to discourage enemy soldiers from defusing the anti-tank weapons.

Written by George Gedda

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