Japan allocates US$673,7000 to clear mines in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan
March 25, 2004 (AP)

Japan has provided a grant of US$673,700 to help Sudan clear land mines from its war zones as it moves toward peace, a statement from the Japanese Embassy said Thursday.

The grant was provided to Landmine Action UK, a nongovernmental organization, to establish a fully equipped demining facility and train Sudanese workers in mine clearance, the statement said. The program will be supervised by the Sudanese government.

"The removal of those explosive weapons of war actively contribute to peace on the ground and the negotiations in (Kenya)," Richard Lloyd, director of the British NGO, told reporters after signing the grant.

"There is a need for the international community to do as the government of Japan is doing and to support this process to ensure that explosive weapons of war will not break confidence and civil movement," he added.

The demining program will be run in areas currently controlled by the Sudan's People Liberation Army, but agreements between the government and the rebels allow humanitarian efforts in these areas.

Landmine Action UK has already eradicated 500 land mines and explosive devices in areas controlled by the government in the central Nuba Mountains, Lloyd said.

Sudanese officials have said about 2 million mines are buried in Sudan, mostly in the south, the Nuba Mountains and the east of the country.

In 2002, the European Union pledged 1.5 million euros (US$1.75 million) for a program to raise mine awareness in Sudan. Both the rebels and the government have endorsed the project.

Peace talks in Kenya between Sudan's government and the southern rebels are moving closer to a conclusion to end the 21-year civil war, but fighting has intensified in western Sudan, creating a humanitarian crisis.