Peru begins de-mining operations

Oct. 17, 2012 at 2:12 PM
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LIMA, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- An international team of experts has begun clearing mines along Peru's borders with Chile and Ecuador after Norway pledged additional cash to make the area explosive-free.

The United States has also donated equipment to Ecuador for the mine clearing operations, which have been debated for several years and are seen crucial to restoring normal life in the area.

Thousands of mines embedded in the land along the borders have posed a threat to local communities and their cattle and also impeded border trade and tourism.

Oslo's non-government organization Norwegian People's Aid was commissioned by the governments of Peru and Chile to de-mine their common border. A team of 29 international experts is set to work in the area for about two months.

Peru is facing the threat of mines planted during past tensions with Ecuador and Chile including explosive devices that washed up during recent floods.

Thousands of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines are suspected of being active in the border areas. Many were washed down to the Pacific coast after recent floods.

In September the United States provided Ecuador with equipment to de-mine the shared border with Peru. U.S. Ambassador Adam Namm in Quito made a donation of equipment valued at $500,000, including safety gear, helmets and metal detectors.

Part of the U.S. assistance entailed training for Ecuadorean military personnel.

Some of the gear will be used for demining an area known as Cordillera del Condor, where Ecuador and Peru battled over territorial disputes in 1981 and 1995. A peace agreement in 1998 led to a shaky reconciliation between the neighbors.

Ecuador military officials said more than 200,000 landmines were cleared over a decade.

A joint Ecuador-Peru unit for demining operations is working with U.N. agencies to complete the operation.

Meanwhile, mine clearing operations are also continuing along the Peruvian-Chilean border.

Recent border incidents wounded at least two Peruvian police officers. Anti-government rebels active in the area seized 36 workers, demanding $10 million ransom, but security operations yielded the captives six days later. It was not clear if any ransom was paid.

Earlier a Peruvian taxi driver died when his vehicle drove over an antitank mine.

A 1997 Ottawa Treaty requires all Latin American countries to help clear mines on their territories, but progress has been slow. Regional governments have cited lack of resources among reasons for the delay in demining operations.

Agreements are still awaited on demining activities in other Latin American areas of conflict, including Nicaragua.

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