US shift isolates Britain on land mines

Britain looks increasingly isolated among Western countries over its opposition to a total ban on the manufacture and export of anti-personnel mines after signs that the US might shift its stance and back the ban.

There are an estimated 100 million anti-personnel mines scattered round the world and they kill an estimated 20,000 people a year. Twenty-four countries have called for a total ban, as have the UN Secretary General, the European Parliament, the Organisation of African Unity and the Pope. Last week the Netherlands renounced the use of mines and France recently prohibited their production and export.

Britain and the US have opposed a ban on the grounds it would be ineffective with so many mines already in circulation and because anti-personnel mines have a role as defensive weapons provided their positions are accurately recorded.

But last week the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, ordered a review of the US military's position. He said he was "inclined to eliminate all anti-personnel land-mines". Yesterday British diplomatic sources played down his words, saying the US was unlikely to change its view that, properly used, land-mines were legitimate weapons of war and that the State Department was likely to oppose any change.

At the end of last year the UN's review conference on inhumane weapons failed to agree a ban on anti-personnel mines, although it did agree a ban on laser weapons designed to damage the human eye.

The conference is due to meet again next month and British diplomatic sources said they would press for tighter restrictions on the use of mines and also for any new mines to be made so they would self-destruct after a certain period.

The Red Cross - which backs a total ban on the manufacture, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines - and other groups, say self-destructing mines are unreliable and a ban is the only solution. "It's an all-or- nothing position, really," the Red Cross said.

The British Government does not agree. "We haven't gone hell for leather for a complete ban," a diplomatic source said. "In any case, you won't get anywhere with the countries who are the real problem. It's no good having a pious conference of countries who don't do any harm anyway. What we're looking for is practical improvement."

Any ban would only affect anti-personnel mines, and not the bigger, anti- tank mines.

Anti-personnel mines are designed to maim, rather than kill, and have resulted in large numbers of amputees in Cambodia and Africa. They are particularly dangerous to children and animals.

Though proper military procedure demands that mines be laid in marked minefields, most of the people who use mines - including the former warring factions in Bosnia - do not always bother.

Britain ceased the export and manufacture of anti-personnel mines in 1982, although British mines dating from before then have been found in Afghanistan.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future