Powell Hails Land Mines Efforts
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Efforts to remove land mines over the past 10 years have led to a decrease in reported annual casualties from 26,000 to 10,000, Secretary of State Colin Powell says.
``The rate of reduction is almost 70 percent in Cambodia,″ Powell said. ``That’s impressive, but not enough. We have to get the rates down to zero. We have to get the casualty figures down to zero.″
Powell spoke at a dinner Tuesday night in honor of Partners in the Fight Against Land Mines, part of a public-private effort to eliminate land mines. The text of his speech was made available by the State Department on Wednesday.
Mine action programs have been established in some 40 countries, Powell said.
He said hundreds of thousands of mine survivors have been fitted with prosthetic devices and given other forms of rehabilitation. ``In country after country, demining technology and skills have been transferred to local populations, so they can continue the important work once they have been trained and equipped,″ he said.
Kosovo will be declared safe of land mines next month, Powell said. That would be a remarkable achievement, he said, given that conventional wisdom had predicted it would take generations to reach that goal.
He said the largest demining program in the world has been in Afghanistan since 1988. It also has been the largest civilian employer in the country, with nearly 5,000 people working to remove mines.