The White House announced early Friday a plan to scale back and eventually eliminate U.S. stocks of antipersonnel land mines, a plan seen by political watchers as President Obama's step toward joining a U.N. treaty that bans the devices.
The announcement came from an American observer delegation to the Ottawa Convention, The New York Times reported. Previously, the White House only stated that it was scrutinizing the treaty, which is 15 years old and signed by most countries.
Human rights organizations favor the treaty, and they welcomed the delegation's announcement with open arms.
"The new thing here is the intent to join the treaty," said Stephen Goose, who heads up the arms division at Human Rights Watch, The Times reported.
Specifically, U.S. ambassador to Mozambique, Douglas Griffiths, read a statement saying that the United States would refrain from further production or purchase of antipersonnel land mines.
The statement also said the once existing stocks expire, the United States would not take any action to replace them, The Times said.
Further, the statement said that the United States was "diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention," the newspaper reported.
While U.S. authorities have refused to tell just how many mines make up its stocks, arms control analysts guess the number falls between 10 million and 13 million.
Military officials say getting rid of the mines put the nation at risk for fighting off ground invasions. They also point out with concern that several countries with animosity toward America — namely China, Russia and Iran — have all refused to sign the treaty.
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