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					PRESS RELEASE
Tuesday 27 February 2007 For Immediate Release

Western Sahara – Controlled explosion destroys thousands of antipersonnel mines
Today, Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, completed destruction of its remaining stockpile of 3321 antipersonnel mines. The stockpile destruction was supported by Landmine Action technical experts and witnessed by the Saharawi President, Mohamed Abdelaziz, Kurt Mosgaard, Force Commander of MINURSO and over 300 international guests. An initial stockpile destruction was carried out in February 2006, after Polisario signed a Deed of Commitment to the 1997 Ottawa Anti-personnel Mine Ban Treaty, agreeing to abide by a complete ban on the use of anti-personnel mines. Western Sahara, a territory the size of France on the Atlantic coast of North Africa, was the focus of intense conflict between Morocco and Polisario, the Saharawi resistance movement from 1975 to 1991. The most heavily mined areas of the country are alongside the berm, a 2,400km long earthwork fortification that runs the length of Western Sahara dividing the Moroccan and Polisario controlled zones. However, the fighting has also left the wider region littered with explosive debris, including cluster bombs, and has made travelling in the territory lethal. The predictable post-conflict legacy of cluster bombs is still very visible and poses a great threat in Western Sahara. On Sunday 25 February 2007, fourteen year old Zalek Mahmoud died from injuries following an accident with an unexploded US manufactured cluster bomb four days earlier near Mehaires in Western Sahara. Zalek’s six year old brother, Said, remains in a critical condition from the same explosion. This latest incident highlights the necessity for a new international law prohibiting the use of these weapons and the significance of the declaration made by 46 nations in Oslo last week to work towards a ban on cluster bombs by 2008. Simon Conway, Director of Landmine Action said “The recent casualties are only the latest examples of the consequence of international inertia over cluster bombs. Polisario’s commitment to destroy all its stocks of anti-personnel landmines is very welcome. The international community should now provide sufficient assistance to Polisarios to clear up the mines and cluster bombs from contaminated water holes and nomadic routes of the Saharawi people.”

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A not-for-profit Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England and Wales no. 3895803 Landmine Action, 1st floor, 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP, UK

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Landmine Action’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and technical survey in Polisario controlled areas in Western Sahara commenced in August 2006 following road move of equipment from the UK to Western Sahara. Initial funding for this project was provided by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the German Foreign Ministry. The programme is currently funded by the Norwegian Ministry of foreign Affairs. To date, Landmine Action’s survey and clearance teams have surveyed over 300 areas in Western Sahara. Items found include artillery and air delivered cluster bombs sold to the Moroccan military by the USA.

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Landmine Action: • Landmine Action works to improve protection for civilians from the effects of conflict. Our policy, research and advocacy work focuses on establishing appropriate controls over the technology of violence. Landmine Action has been a member of the steering committee for the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) since it was established in 2003. The CMC has a membership of over 200 non-governmental organisations worldwide. Product Recall, the UK campaign to ban cluster munitions was launched in October 2006. For more information visit www.spreadingourvalues.com.

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For more information on the Western Sahara project or the work of Landmine Action, contact Mikaela Wallinder on 020 7820 0222 or email mwallinder@landmineaction.org. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call 07843 387 149.

Landmine Action, 1st floor, 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP, UK


				
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