GENEVA - The International Campaign to Ban Landmines on Saturday urged the United States to halt the reported dropping of landmines in its military campaign against Afghanistan, and called on other countries to join the protest.
US authorities have neither confirmed nor denied an October 11 report by The New York Times which said US aircraft had begun dropping Gator mines, aimed at both vehicles and people on foot.
Handicap International (HI), a group associated with the ICBL, issued a statement on behalf of the campaign urging the United States to respect the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning landmines, which Washington has not signed.
On Friday, HI appealed to France and Britain -- which have approved the Ottawa Convention -- to support its efforts to see NATO adopt an edict forbidding the use of landmines in Afghanistan.
France and Britain "should publicly affirm their opposition to the use of landmines by the US army and refuse all participation in joint operations during which landmines could be used," the group said in a statement.
The ICBL also denounced the US military's use of cluster bombs, saying the weapons posed a similar threat to landmines, and could in some cases be even worse.
The US authorities have confirmed using cluster bombs in their campaign against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia.
Cluster bombs are made up of hundreds of small bombs which scatter over a large area when the bomb is dropped.
Experts say that on average 10 to 20 percent of the small bombs do not explode as they touch the ground, and can, like landmines, lie undetected for years.
Unexploded bomblets can kill anyone within 50 meters (164 feet) of them and seriously injure those within 100 meters (328 feet).
Although they are relatively easy to detect, often painted bright yellow, Afghans have not been alerted to the dangers they pose, HI said.
The country is already one of the most densely mined in the world, with more than seven million landmines and other weapons laying unexploded across its terrain.
Various organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, have urged the US to stop using cluster bombs in its military campaign in Afghanistan.
Copyright © 2001 AFP