Global land mine crisis moves nearer solution
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Web posted at: 10:24 p.m. EDT (0224 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The land mine crisis could be solved within years, rather than decades, the State Department said Thursday, after issuing a report that lowered its previous estimate of the number of the deadly devices planted worldwide.
The new report states that, while there are still 60 million to 70 million land mines scattered in 60 countries, Namibia is now "virtually mine-free" and Afghanistan and Cambodia have seen casualty rates drop by almost two-thirds.
"While the problem is still huge, many experts now believe that the anti-personnel land mine crisis can be solved in years rather than decades," the report said.
The report updates one produced by the department in 1994, when the campaign to rid the world of land mines, which take a huge toll on civilians, was just building steam.
Since then, the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines -- aided by high-profile support from the late Princess Diana and others -- won a Nobel peace price for rallying public opinion and helping gain passage of an international treaty banning land mines.
The State Department said more accurate information shows that the scope of the problem, while still staggering, is 30 to 50 percent less than originally projected.
Initial estimates spoke of 100 million anti-personnel land mines in at least 70 countries, but new data put the number of land mines at closer to 60 million in about 60 countries.
The worst cases include Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq (Kurdistan), Mozambique, Somalia and Sudan.
Higher removal rate
The report added that most experts believe that the rate of land mine removal now exceeds the rate of deployment.
The 1994 report estimated that only 80,000 land mines were being removed annually -- a fraction of the planting rate.
The revised report shows drops in the number of newly planted mines for Central America and Bosnia, but a rise for Angola.
"Angola is an instance where a country is going in the wrong direction," said Eric Newsom, the State Department's acting assistant secretary for political-military affairs.
The report also found that "the mobilization of international attention and resources for humanitarian de-mining is accelerating solutions and proving that concerted international intervention does dramatically reduce the carnage of land mines to civilians."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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