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Stepped-Up Demining Drive Underlined

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KABUL – On the eve of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Afghans called for effective measures to prevent the deaths and injuries caused by landmines and other unexploded ordnance in the country. At a gathering in Kabul, officials said under the Ottawa Convention, the demining campaign had to be led by the Afghan government. In a message, President Karzai said marking the day had special importance for Afghanistan, which had more than any other country.

The Afghans continued to suffer because of mines, despite courageous efforts by domineers, Karzai said, hoping the mine-clearing organizations would sustain their focus the entire country. Also on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for more progress in efforts to eliminate the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war around the world – including in Afghanistan.

“Eliminating the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war is a crucially important endeavour that advances peace, enables development, supports nations in transition and saves lives,” the UN chief added. Addressing the ceremony in Kabul, Abigail Hartley — the UN manager for demining, said currently 4,900 areas remained mined in Afghanistan, threatening thousands of lives.

She said the Afghanistan demining program cost a hundred million dollars annually. “We hope donor countries will continue to aid Afghanistan in this area.” In past years, thousands of kilometers of land have been cleared. Still 30 to 40 people lose their lives or are wounded by landmines and unexploded ordnances every month, she maintained.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Shahab Hakimi, director of Mine Detection Centre, said due to decades of war, the problems was yet to be fully addressed. In December 2005, the UN General Assembly declared April 4 the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The declaration stemmed from recommendations by member states. (PAN)

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