NEW YORK - Widespread use of antipersonnel land mines in nations such as India
and Pakistan is hampering global efforts to eliminate these weapons that kill
or maim thousands of people annually, according to a report released on Friday
by activists seeking a mine ban.
Since late December 2001, during a period when India and Pakistan moved to the brink of war, the two nuclear-armed neighbors have laid large numbers of antipersonnel mines along their common border, the International Campaign to Ban Land mines said in its report.
The report also cited extensive use of land mines by the governments of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and Russia, in Chechnya, and on a smaller scale in Nepal, Somalia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
"A few holdout governments are undercutting the progress of all the rest,"
said Stephen Goose of Human Rights
Watch, the lobby group that was a founding member of the campaign.
The International Campaign to Ban Land mines is a global network of more than 1,200 non-governmental organizations in 60 countries seeking to eliminate land mines and promote the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
"Three quarters of the countries in the world have renounced the antipersonnel mine, and together they need to bring more pressure on the recalcitrant few," Goose added in a statement.
Groups in at least 14 countries used land mines last year, including the Northern Alliance, the al Qaeda guerrilla network and the toppled Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the report found.
The report added that the United States did not use mines in Afghanistan, and that many devices manufactured in Iran were found in Afghanistan, apparently provided by the Iranian government to combatants in the region.
The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines. Some 125 countries have signed and ratified the treaty, while another 18 have signed but not yet ratified it.
Some of the countries with the world's biggest militaries -- including the United States, Russia, India, Pakistan, China and Israel -- remain outside the treaty.
The International Campaign to Ban Land mines says the weapons pose a daily threat in Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Chechnya, Croatia, Iraq, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Somalia and dozens of other places.
The United Nations estimates that about 10,000 people worldwide are killed annually by land mines, and activists said up to another 10,000 people are injured by the devices, often requiring the amputation of limbs.
Up to 40 percent of all mine victims are children under age 15, according to the United Nations.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd