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U.S. launches own plan to clear land mines

The United States, under fire for opposing a global land-mine ban, announced a plan Friday to raise up to $1-billion annually to clear away by 2010 minefields that kill thousands of civilians each year.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the initiative's goal was "to ensure that civilians in every country on every continent are secure from the threat of land mines by the end of the next decade."

She said the campaign, "Demining 2010 Initiative," will aim to increase public and private resources devoted to detecting and clearing land mines in dozens of countries.

Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen, who jointly announced the project, stressed that it applied only to land mines that posed a threat to civilians, remnants of wars that have ended or abated. Cohen said President Clinton had made clear that U.S. troops around the world needed to be protected by "mixed" systems of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.

The United States also has said that for now it sees no way of dispensing with anti-personnel mines on the Korean border, although Clinton has asked the Pentagon to develop alternatives by 2006.

It was in part the Korea issue that led to Washington's refusal to sign an international agreement to ban land mines adopted in September.

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