Annan urges nations to step up pace in the fight against landmines

Mr. Annan told the Fifth Annual Conference of the High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II to the Convention, which is meeting in Geneva this week, that new ratifications have dropped from 11 in 2000 to five this year.In a message delivered today by the head of the UN office in Geneva, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the Secretary-General said “the international community should do its utmost to reverse this trend. The goal of universal membership needs to be brought significantly closer year by year.”The protocol, adopted in 1996, aims to eliminate the threat to humans from landmines not banned by the Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention. So far 73 nations have ratified the protocol or signalled their intention to be bound by it.Mr. Annan said “landmines continue to take the lives of innocent civilians, to maim men, women and children indiscriminately, to aggravate the disastrous economic consequences of armed conflicts, and to threaten future generations.”Tomorrow Mr. Ordzhonikidze will deliver another message from Mr. Annan, this time to the meeting of the States Parties to the Convention. In this message, the Secretary-General welcomes the decision of 20 countries to sign an amended article extending the force of the Convention to civil wars, and not just to international conflicts.