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Iraq Hopes To Clear Millions Of Unexploded Bombs, Mines

Iraqi Environment Minister Nirmin Othman (file photo)
Iraqi Environment Minister Nirmin Othman (file photo)
BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi government official says the country hopes to have the millions of unexploded cluster bombs and land mines leftover from wars in the last 20 years cleared by 2018, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Environment Minister Nirmin Othman says that the live ordnance has led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis being disabled, with southern Iraq being the worst-affected.

Othman said that some 40 percent of an estimated 55 million cluster bombs are still unexploded around the country. She said that those and buried land mines pose a daily threat to people.

Othman said the main challenge facing the Environment Ministry is to remove and destroy the lethal ordnance in keeping with international standards.

She said the ministry has invited international companies to help in the demining and has asked donors for assistance, as the 1997 convention on the prohibition, stockpiling, production, and transfer of antipersonnel mines and their destruction provides for such assistance to affected countries.

Othman says that according to the ministry, there are some 100,000 amputees in Iraq, and up to 80 percent of them are victims of land mines.

Bassim Sharif, the rapporteur of the parliament's Health and Environment Committee, says that disabled people form such a large group in Iraq that the constitution singles them out with a specific article requiring the government to ensure their welfare.

He adds that "unfortunately the previous legislature failed to live up to the letter and spirit of this article."

A recent study conducted by the Canada-based Disabled Peoples' International in cooperation with the Iraqi Labor and Health ministries, said that there are more than 1 million disabled people in Iraq out of a population of some 31 million.