Weapons still litter Iraq, U.S. says

Jan. 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Despite more than $20 million spent to clear unexploded ordnance in Iraq, more than 700 square miles of land are contaminated, the U.S. government said.

The U.S. State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement provided $22 million last year for the removal and disposal of land mines, unexploded ordnance and excess conventional weapons and munitions.

The State Department said around 1.5 million square miles in Iraq was cleared of land mines last year and more than 50,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance were destroyed.

The department, however, said as many as 20 million land mines contaminate about 719 square miles of land in Iraq and an estimated 1,600 communities are at risk from explosive hazards in the country.

"Despite significant progress, much work remains," the State Department said in a statement.

Most of the land contaminated by unexploded ordnance and land mines is generally used for agriculture.

The State Department said it invested more than $209 million in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 on the clearance and safe disposal of land mines and other weapons.

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