Bosnia, Croatia urged to step up mine clearance

International campaigners urged Bosnia and Croatia on Thursday to step up efforts to rid their territories of land mines, which have killed hundreds of people in the two countries over the past 13 years.


"There is much more work to be done in Bosnia and Croatia and their governments should really be focusing on how to combine the international assistance with their efforts," said Kerry Brinkert, head of the Geneva-based Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit. He said Bosnia was a more serious case than Croatia, as it suffered greater funding problems. Both Balkan countries have hundreds of square kilometers contaminated with anti-personnel mines dating from the wars that followed the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Although 965 square miles (2,500 sq. kilometers) have been cleared in Bosnia since 1999, an estimated 656 sq. miles (1,700 sq. kilometers) remain contaminated. Mines have claimed 464 lives in the country since 1996. In Croatia, where land mines have killed 68 people since 1999, about 367 square miles (950 sq. kilometers) remain uncleared. "At this stage it is very important that governments get really serious in finding the money and the will to complete the clearance," said Tamar Gabelnick. Gabelnick is Treaty Implementation director at the International Campaign to Ban Land mines, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1997.

"Bosnia and Croatia suffer from heavy contamination, but ten years after joining the treaty they still do not know where all the mined areas are," Gabelnick said. "With lives depending on the rapid clearance of these areas, there is no time to lose." Gabelnick and Brinkert were in Albania for the opening of a regional meeting on land mines. Albanian Deputy Defense Minister Petrit Karabina told the meeting his country is now free of all known mines and unexploded ordnance, after the last land mine was cleared a week ago. Karabina alleged that many of the explosives were planted inside Albanian territory by neighboring Serbia during the Kosovo war in 1998-1999 and Macedonia in 2001, as those countries battled ethnic Albanian insurgencies. Others were planted by weapons smugglers.

Over the past decade mines and unexploded ordnance have killed 34 Albanians, a third of them children. And 238 people have been wounded.

Von: by LLAZAR SEMINI, 2009.10.09, Associated Press / Taiwan News,

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