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London Evening Standard/This is London

10 Jul 1998, 11:10 Universal Time

MPs to pass Diana mines Bill

    by Charles Reiss

    MPs met today to pay tribute to Princess Diana and one
    of her key causes - with a Bill to ban landmines rushed
    through in a single sitting.

    The measure, barring the development, production and
    sale of mines, was set to pass with all-party backing.

    That opens the way for Britain to be among the first
    countries to ratify the Ottawa Convention, leading to a
    worldwide treaty.

    The Government has already made clear that Britain's
    forces would cease using mines and that existing stocks
    would be destroyed.

    Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said today that half the
    mines stockpiled had already been disposed of and that
    the Government was on target to destroy all anti-personnel
    landmines by the end of next year.

    However, until recently, ministers argued that it would not
    be practical to hurry through the necessary change in the
    law to allow Britain to sign up to the convention. That
    stance was reversed under increasing public pressure and
    embarrassment that the Government might be seen to be
    faltering in its promised backing for the cause.

    Mr Cook today highlighted the scale of the menace,
    pointing out that some 60 million landmines were scattered
    in 70 countries, with 18,000 identified minefields in Bosnia
    alone.

    "After the trauma of war, landmines pollute the peace," he
    said.

    Princess Diana, he added, had made an "immense
    contribution" in making people aware of the human cost of
    landmines and the best way to pay tribute to that was to
    make the change in the law.

    Tories complained at what they said was a loophole in the
    measure,which would allow British troops to continue to
    handle mines.

    However, ministers said this was a necessary legal cover
    to protect British forces who might be working in a
    combined operation, under Nato or UN command,
    alongside American or other forces which still used mines. 

    © Associated Newspapers Ltd., 10 July 1998
 


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