Without U.S., Nations Pass Treaty Banning Land Mines

Article excerpt

With empty chairs at the table behind the sign reading "United States," diplomats from nearly 90 nations on Thursday adopted wording for a treaty that would ban the manufacture and use of antipersonnel mines.

"Two years ago the idea of an international law banning land mines seemed a distant prospect," said Norway's foreign minister, Bjorn Tore Godal. France's delegate, Joelle Bourgois, called it "one of the rare moments in international life where reasons of state encounter the sentiment of peoples."

The treaty will be forwarded to Ottawa, Canada, for a formal signing ceremony in early December, with ratification by member nations to follow. Bosnian delegate Izet Serdarevic expressed sorrow that the United States would not be part of the treaty. "We all needed the power of the United States, among others, to influence other countries," he said. The swift adoption of the text came after President Bill Clinton's administration failed to modify the treaty to meet its concerns about the security of U.S. troops along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Clinton indicated Wednesday that the United States could not be party to an agreement that jeopardized the lives of Americans and South Koreans, describing the use of land mines in the event of a Korean conflict as a "key part of our defense line." Clinton's pledge, in a Washington news conference, to end the use of antipersonnel mines by 2003 everywhere but on the Korean Peninsula, and on the peninsula three years later, was greeted positively at the conference. …