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Iraq Seeks Help To Clear 25 Million Land Mines

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Brigadier General Salih Qaduri has told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq that clearing that country of some 25 million unexploded land mines is a "major challenge" for the Iraqi Defense Ministry without international assistance.

Environment Minister Narmin Othman Hassan told RFI that Iraq accounts for one-quarter of the world's mines, which according to the 1997 Ottawa mine-ban treaty are supposed to be completely destroyed within 10 years.

Kamal Husayn, demining director at the Environment Ministry, says Iraq needs some 19,000 de-miners in order to complete the job and would have to enlist nongovernmental organizations, private contractors, and foreign companies to aid in the process.

The majority of the mines are along the Iraqi-Iranian border and in the border region between Iraq and Kuwait.

Husayn said that in order to meet the 2007 deadline the country will have to hire private contractors or work with nongovernmental groups.