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World: U.S. Has New Land Mine Elimination Plan

Washington, 3 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says the United States has a new plan for eliminating land mines from the world that will focus on finding and removing existing explosive devices.

She told reporters Friday that the U.S. initiative seeks to rid the world of land mines by the year 2010.

The United Nations estimates there are 100 million land mines buried in 64 countries around the world that are responsible for 26,000 casualties a year. The U.S. was sharply criticized a few weeks ago when it declined to sign an international treaty banning land mines. The U.S. wants mines eliminated, but it also says mines are needed in some places to protect American troops, particularly on the border between communist North Korea and the U.S. ally South Korea.

Albright said Friday the U.S. believes the best way to protect civilians from land mines it to "pull them out like noxious weeds." Albright said the new initiative is intended to increase to $1 billion annually public and private resources for eliminating land mines. That would represent a five-fold increase.

She said undersecretary of state for South Asian affairs Karl Inderfurth will be in charge of the U.S. initiative.