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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Concerns Raised About Future Progress in Mine-Clearing

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says mine-clearing efforts made more progress last year than ever before. But the group says it is concerned about future progress because international support decreased for the first time.

It says the European Commission, the United States and eight other major donors decreased their financing of "mine action." This is defined as clearing mines and destroying supplies of them. It also includes mine risk education and survivor assistance.

The Geneva-based campaign released its "Landmine Monitor Report Two Thousand Six" at the United Nations last week.

The report says that seven hundred forty square kilometers, an area about the size of New York City, was cleared of mines last year. It says that is the most land cleared in one year since modern de-mining efforts started in nineteen eighty.

Yet the number of reported casualties from landmine explosions was eleven percent higher than in two thousand four. Landmines killed at least two thousand people and wounded more than five thousand others last year. About eighty percent of the victims were civilians.

The campaign blames the increase largely on increased conflict in nations including Burma, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Colombia reported the highest number of casualties -- more than one thousand.

Numbers of reported casualties are often less than half of the real number.

Two countries, Guatemala and Surinam, were declared mine-free. But armed groups in at least ten countries used mines or similar devices in the past year.

The report says three governments used them as well: Burma, Nepal and Russia. These nations have not signed the nineteen ninety-seven Mine Ban Treaty.

Forty countries remain outside the treaty. Others include China, India, Pakistan and the United States.

The treaty bans the use, production and trade of landmines. It also requires countries to clear all territory of antipersonnel mines within ten years of when they joined the treaty.

More than one hundred fifty governments have joined the Mine Ban Treaty. Twenty-nine still have to finish mine-clearing within the next few years. But the campaign says thirteen might not meet that goal, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Mozambique and Thailand.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. You can read transcripts of our reports and download audio at www.unsv.com. This is Shep O'Neal.

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