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Ciudad de México,  January 11, 1999

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), César Gaviria, told a regional landmine seminar in Mexico City on Monday that this hemisphere had done more to rid the territories of the dangerous devices than any other region. Mr. Gaviria went on to call for a "redoubling of our common efforts to rid ourselves of the scourge of landmines, to assist the victims, and to offer alternative means of development for those living in the affect areas."

Joining Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Rosario Green, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, United Nations Envoy for Peace Michael Douglas, and US Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams at the opening of a two-day seminar entitled "Reaffirming our Commitment," Mr. Gaviria outlined the OAS de-mining program in Central America. Representatives of virtually all the member states of the OAS and a number of observer countries and prominent international institutions are also attending the international seminar.

Mr. Gaviria highlighted the more than 43,000 mines removed from Nicaragua, where some 73,000 remain to be removed. Noting the growing awareness of how much "these mines hinder economic development in the countries and impede infrastructure works," he added that in addition to the thousands of families and victims rehabilitated, large tracts of land had been restored to productive use in agriculture. Among other successes the OAS chief spoke about was how the Organization’s mine-clearing program had brought about "a convergence of interests for peace." He added that the hemisphere’s armed forces were cooperating more closely with one another and with civil society in the affected countries.

The gathering will consider the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, signed in Ottawa in 1997. At the top of its agenda, the seminar will discuss: the future of the Ottawa Convention; the goal of the Americas as a landmine-free zone; the challenges of ratification, implementation and universality of the Ottawa Convention; international cooperation for de-mining; and inter-American cooperation to rehabilitate mine victims.