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State Dept. lauds new partnerships to combat land mines

From Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

A warning sign marks a minefield in Mozambique.
A warning sign marks a minefield in Mozambique.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department Wednesday welcomed the donations of The Children of Armenia Fund and Skylink Aviation for the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program.

The department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs works with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civic associations, philanthropic foundations, educational institutions and corporations to protect civilians from the threat of land mines.

The public-private program is coordinated with the New York-based, non-profit Humpty Dumpty Institute.

Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield said that since the Humpty Dumpty Institute was established in 1998 it has raised more than $600,000 for de-mining. Through the Humpty Dumpty Institute-State Department partnership, this sum has been leveraged into more than $1.5 million for mine clearance efforts worldwide.

Garo Armen, who started the Children of Armenia foundation two and a half years ago, presented Bloomfield with a donation of $100,000 for the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance based in Slovenia. That donation will be matched by the United States with $3 for every dollar raised.

This contribution and the U.S. match will fund additional dogs to complement Armenia's existing canine mine detection capability.

During a trip to Armenia several years ago, Armen said he was touched by the resilience of the Armenian people. He said nearly 10 percent of Armenia is covered with land mines, but because it is such a mountainous country, the percentage of productive land covered by mines is even higher.

The U.S. State Department in February said there were between 80,000-100,000 land mines in Armenia affecting 1,800-2,500 square kilometers.

SkyLink Aviation, a leading Canadian aircraft leasing company, also presented a $100,000 check to fund de-mining training and provision of modern de-mining equipment in Mozambique.

The State Department matched the SkyLink donation with an additional $150,000 for more training for Mozambican humanitarian de-miners, which brought the U.S. total land mine eradication contribution to $250,000.

The State Department estimated in 2001 that there were between 800,000 and 1 million land mines in the southeast African country.

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