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Letter: Slaughter by mines will go on

Sir: Only the naive and ill-informed will applaud the decision by the Government to ban the trade in landmines (report, 22 May), believing that this will result in a cessation of their use and an end to the casualties caused by these insidious devices.

Landmine warfare is a complex and emotive subject not entirely understood by princesses and politicians, except where publicity is sought that may help to focus public opinion on the carnage wreaked by the indiscriminate use of these weapons.

Britain's ban on landmines may be laudable, but the world powers have little or no interest in engaging in a crusade for the removal of millions of such devices in countries which offer no political or economic advantage in return. The Gulf battlefields straddle vast oil resources. Bosnia does not; and mine-clearance in the Third World has become the prerogative of Western Christian charity groups.

The clearance of minefields should be seen as a global problem requiring a global solution. A similar programme to that developed by the World Health Organisation to eradicate smallpox seems to offer a model for action if the multilateral will could be found. In the meantime, casualties will continue as a visible reminder of political instability in the Third World and vast greed and almost unbelievable hypocrisy in the West.


Assault Engineer, Royal Marines (retired)

Exmouth, Devon