Nicaragua cleared of civil war landmines: military

22nd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Nicaragua has cleared its territory of all landmines inherited from its 1980s civil war, Nicaraguan defence officials told AFP on Tuesday.

"Nicaragua has fulfilled its commitments for the elimination of all its landmines on its national territory... before May 1, 2010, that's to say, the deadline fixed" by the anti-landmine Ottawa Convention, said Spiro Bassi, chief engineer of the Nicaraguan army.

"The last mine was removed and destroyed on April 13," said Bassi, who was in Geneva for a meeting on the Ottawa Convention.

"A total of 179,970 mines were destroyed in 21 years of constant work," said Juan Umana, a Nicaraguan ministry of defence representative, also present during the meeting.

The landmines were scattered across over a thousand sites in 16 or 17 regions of the country. Many were in 533 minefields in border or coastal regions, said Bassi.

The Nicaraguan population had paid a high price for the mines, with 1,147 civilians wounded by explosions and 87 killed.

The demining operation also proved hazardous, with 38 soldiers wounded by mine explosions and six killed, said Bassi.

"This is a key event. A region that was completely filled with landmines is now safe again. We congratulate Nicaragua for having finished its demining operations," said Susan Eckey, the convention's Norwegian chair.

"We should now concentrate on the needs and the rights of the survivors in Nicaragua and elsewhere in the region," she added.

Under the rules of the 1997 Ottawa treaty which came into force on March 1, 1999, the 156 state parties which have signed up must clear their territories of landmines and destroy their stocks of such arms within 10 years of joining.

Like several other countries, Nicaragua was given additional time to clear its territory of mines.

© 2010 AFP

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