U.N. Group Limits Lasers but Not Land Mines

From Associated Press

A U.N. conference approved a limited ban on laser weapons Friday but adjourned after making almost no progress on its main goal of restricting land mines.

Despite a clamor to ban land mines, which kill or maim more than 20,000 civilians a year, delegates from more than 40 governments could not even agree on modest restrictions. They hope to try again early next year.

Johan Molander of Sweden, the conference president, said the delegates made a "good-faith effort" to toughen a 1980 weapons treaty that has done little to protect civilians from land mines. But he said the three-week conference became mired in technicalities and security concerns.

"Where is the proper balance between humanitarian requirements and military requirements?" he asked. "That balance is different for different countries."

Human rights groups were angry. Activists seeking the ban said they would compile a blacklist of countries and companies that make and use land mines.

"They have come here making lovely public statements," said Jody Williams of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. "But each country engaged in this negotiation was here to protect its own political and military interest."

She said that, in Cambodia alone, 234 people had been injured and 36 killed by land mines since the conference opened Sept. 25.

Delegates consoled themselves with an accord restricting so-called blinding laser weapons.

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