Scrap treaty banning anti-personnel mines, urges Libyan leader

Tripoli - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has defended the use of landmines by weak countries countering aggression by stronger adversaries, and said the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel mines should be amended or scrapped.

"Powerful countries do not need landmines to protect themselves. Mines are the means of self-defence of the weak countries," Gaddafi, whose country began a two-year term on the UN Security Council this month, said in a statement.

Eighty percent of states have signed the 1997 convention banning antipersonnel mines. Libya, along with 37 other nations including the US, China and Russia, has not signed the treaty.

Hard to detect and clear and often designed to maim rather than kill, antipersonnel mines can stay in the soil for decades.

Activists estimate mines kill or injure 15 000 to 20 000 people a year, mainly civilians in countries now at peace, but where the mines remain in the ground.

Gaddafi said he supported parts of the convention on removing all mines where the military situation that required their planting had ended, the treatment and rehabilitation of victims and rehabilitation of affected environments.

Nations also should be prohibited from planting mines in other countries and any that did so must remove them "at their own expense and to compensate those affected by the mines".

But he said the weapons could also have a legitimate role. "There are other elements in the convention that cannot be accepted: One, the complete prohibition of the manufacture and use of landmines. Two, the destruction of the stockpiles of landmines," the October 17 statement on Gaddafi's website said. - Reuters