A two-day international conference to address the problem of antipersonnel land mines kicked off Mar. 6 in Tokyo with participation of officials from 38 countries and 11 international organizations, including the United Nations.

In a written message addressed to the conference, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said land mines are obstacles to Japan’s goal of creating a world free of conflict and poverty. “Antipersonnel land mines not only create enormous humanitarian problems by indiscriminately inflicting injury and death on civilians both during and after armed conflicts,” Hashimoto said, “they also constitute a huge impediment to recovery and development after conflicts have been resolved.”

The conference was proposed by Hashimoto at the summit of the Group of Seven industrialized countries in France last June. Participants included officials from all of the G-7 nations as well as some war-ravaged countries.

Hashimoto called for international efforts to ban the use of antipersonnel land mines and support removal efforts by the U.N. and other organizations. He said that development of new technologies for mine detection and removal and assistance to the victims of land mines are also crucial. About 112 million unexploded land mines laid during armed conflicts remained buried as of April 1996, mainly in the Middle East, northern Africa and Southeast Asia, according to U.N. statistics.

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