Lebanon seeks more aid to clear unexploded mines

A Lebanese soldier patrols the entrance of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared as smoke rises from the destruction of unexploded shells, mines and other explosives left behind by Fatah Islam militants in Tripoli, Lebanon Friday, Sept. 7, 2007. (AP)

Lebanon asked the United States Monday for more aid in eliminating landmines planted during the Lebanese civil war and in later conflicts.

The State Department published Monday its yearly report on its program to destroy abandoned conventional weapons.

It is a 2.5 billion dollar program dating back to 1993, and allotted around 140 million dollars last year.

The United States said that makes it the world's top country in terms of eliminating unexploded ordnance like anti-personnel landmines.

Speaking as the report was released, Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid warned against "donor fatigue" in making land in formerly war-torn countries such as his safe to walk, farm, or build on.

"This is very important, that the U.S. will continue and even increase the level of assistance and it's absolutely very important also that the U.S. puts pressure on other donors, international donors," Chedid told a news conference.

"The reality is that Lebanon is contaminated with landmines," he added. This danger stems from the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1991 and fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 in south Lebanon.

In 2013, Syria was also accused of placing landmines along its border with Lebanon.

The State Department says Washington has spent more than 55 million dollars on landmine and other ordnance clearing in Lebanon from 1998 to 2014. Last year, the amount was 2.5 million dollars.

"We have turned one-time battlegrounds into land for vital infrastructure. We have cleared mine fields so that farmers can get back to their fields and children can walk to school safely in Angola, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and many other countries," said Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Secretary of State John Kerry said in December of last year that the world would soon be rid of anti-personnel mines.

The Ottawa Convention of 1997, so far signed by 162 countries but not the United States, bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45