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U.S. troops watched as a mine sweeper looked for weapons in a hole they dug during a raid on a farmland outside Tikrit, Iraq.

Karel Prinsloo • Associated Press file,

U.S. promises to curb stockpile of land mines

  • Article by: RICK GLADSTONE
  • New York Times
  • June 27, 2014 - 9:28 PM

The Obama administration on Friday announced measures to reduce and eventually eliminate its stockpile of antipersonnel land mines, with the aim of joining the global treaty that prohibits them.

The announcement, made by a U.S. observer delegation to a conference in Mozambique on the progress of the 15-year-old treaty, was stronger than the previously stated administration position — that it was studying the treaty’s provisions. It appeared to put the United States on a trajectory to signing the treaty.

The administration did not indicate when the United States would sign the treaty, known as the Ottawa Convention. The U.S. delegation said in a statement read out by the U.S. ambassador to Mozambique, Douglas Griffiths, that the United States would no longer produce or acquire antipersonnel land mines or replace old ones that expire.

The United States has not disclosed precise details about the size of its stockpile. Arms control experts have estimated it to be 10 million to 13 million.

The statement by the delegation, which is led by Steven R. Costner, the deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, also said the United States was “diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention.”

Human rights groups and disarmament advocates who have increasingly criticized the United States for its reluctance to sign the treaty cautiously welcomed the announcement. “We are very pleased with the U.S. announcement, said Stephen Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch.

But Goose, who helped found the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a group that won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work and is considered largely responsible for the Ottawa Convention, was also critical of the new U.S. position, a view shared by many other disarmament advocates. “It makes little sense to acknowledge that the weapons must be banned due to the humanitarian harm they cause, and yet insist on being able to use them,” he said.

U.S. officials have argued that these weapons have an important purpose — in deterring ground invasions, for example — and that the United States would put itself at a disadvantage by renouncing them. Notably Russia, China and Iran have not signed the treaty. Disarmament advocates have argued that the U.S. reluctance to sign may be dissuading the other nations from joining.

The United States remains the largest single donor to the cause of land mine decontamination and medical care for victims, providing more than $2.3 billion since 1993 for conventional weapons destruction programs in other countries.

‘Don’t send your children’ to border, obama says

President Obama is telling Central American parents considering sending their children to the U.S. border to escape violence and poverty to keep them at home.

“Our message absolutely is don’t send your children unaccompanied, on trains or through a bunch of smugglers,” Obama told ABC News on Thursday. “We don’t even know how many of these kids don’t make it, and may have been waylaid into sex trafficking or killed because they fell off a train. … If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

Republicans, who blame the influx of minors on a drop in deportations, have called for Obama to make such a public warning. The president called the surge of young immigrants at the border a “humanitarian crisis.” The administration says an estimated 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained since October.

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