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US Bishops regret Bush U-turn on landmines ban

The Catholic Bishops have responded to the US Government's decision to pull back on its earlier commitment to join more than 150 other nations in banning the use of antipersonnel landmines in war zones.

The US has decided to continue to use the weapons indefinitely, but to switch to landmines that become inert within hours or days after they are planted. It also plans to expand its leadership role in aiding the victims of landmines.

The US is not a signatory to the 1997 Ottawa Convention on Landmines, which aims to bring about a permanent ban on their use.

But spokesman Bishop John Ricard called the decision to continue using landmines a "missed opportunity".

He said: "It undermines the efforts of the past decade to rid the world of these indiscriminate weapons."

"With Pope John Paul II and Catholic Bishops from around the world, the bishops in this country have long called for a ban on these indiscriminate and deadly weapons and have urged the US government to sign the Mine Ban Treaty."

The statement recognises that much progress has been made internationally during in the past decade toward acting on the "moral imperative" of ending the use of landmines.

But, it says, "the continued reliance of the world's largest military on these insidious weapons will only delay the day when the world will be freed from this scourge."

New U.S. Landmines Policy is 'A Missed Opportunity' (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 1/3/04)

Statement on New U.S. Policy on Landmines (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 1/3/04)
U.S. Announces New Landmines Policy (Arms Control Today Mar 04)
In Deadly Policy Reversal, U.S. Will Use Landmines (Human Rights Watch/
U.S. Administration Has Plan for Short-Term Landmines, FT Says (Bloomberg 27/2/04)
US Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement | US Landmine Policy | New Developments in the U.S. Approach to Landmines (27/2/04)
International Campaign to Ban Landmines | Australian Campaign
How Landmines Work (
Nun spells out Australia's landmines obligations (CathNews 10/3/03)

4 Mar 2004