U.N. Chief Kofi Annan Praises Treaty That Bans Land Mines

UNITED NATIONS - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised an anti-land mine treaty as a "landmark in the history of disarmament," but said it represents only the beginning of the real work ahead.

Countries that will sign the ban and ratify it must pledge to implement it by aiding the victims and clearing mines that are in the ground, Annan said Friday, adding that other countries should also come on board.

Annan attended a news conference at which the foreign minister of Norway, Bjorn Tore Godal, delivered the treaty to Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy.

The treaty, which was endorsed by 89 countries this month in Oslo, Norway, is to be signed in December in Ottawa. It goes into effect after 40 countries have ratified it.

"When we come to Ottawa, we recognize that it's more than signing the treaty, it's the beginning of the process," said Axworthy, who has been mentioned as a contender for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

"You can't rebuild as long as there are booby traps in the ground," he said.

The treaty calls for a total ban on production, export and use of anti-personnel mines. It calls for the destruction of all stockpiles within four years of ratification and the clearance of minefields within 10 years.

It also provides for helping countries remove minefields and give aid to the victims of the weapons - an estimated 26,000 annually.

The United States failed to endorse the treaty after seeking a series of exemptions. China, Russia and India also haven't endorsed it.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Cornelio Sommaruga, who attended the news conference from Geneva via satellite, announced a new television campaign to pressure countries that didn't sign on to do so.

In the black-and-white spot, victims of land mines - many walking on one leg - are seen massing in front of the building in downtown Ottawa where the treaty will be signed.

"The people of the world are behind a total ban on land mines," says the announcer. "Now it's the politicians' turn."

"Is your government going to sign?"

"Excellent," marveled Annan at the end of the spot.

Both Canada and Norway were instrumental in bringing about the treaty - Norway by being one of the first countries to announce a ban on land mines and Canada for pushing through the treaty so quickly and without compromises, Annan said.

"We have, finally, turned the tide on production and use of land-mines and started a momentum which one day will include all nations in the fight against land mines," he said.

Norway has pledged $100 million over five years for mine clearing and victim assistance, Godal said, in urging other countries, private companies and others to contribute.

"The needs are enormous indeed, and only a concerted approach can help those whose lives have been so terribly, terribly affected by the use of anti-personnel mines," Godal said.