Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Non-profit group offers free de-mining machine

Non-profit group offers free de-mining machine
Device can virtually end human losses in clearing of unexploded ordnance

By Leila Hatoum
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A group of engineers and activists are devising a machine that would help in defusing land mines and possibly small bombs, with the invention to be provided for free to the countries that need it. Nida Wakim, an activist, actor and the spokesperson for ARTID (Association de Recherche de Techniques Innovantes en Deminage Humanitaire), said the group was working on devising a new technique in demining that would lead to minimal human losses. Wakim said ARTID "is a completely non-beneficiary foundation that will present its innovation, called Demichain, for free to the Lebanese government and any country that needs it." He added that the machine "has only been tested in laboratories in France and ARTID is trying to get the approval of the Lebanese authorities to test it on live ammo." "If we test and complete it in France, the French Army will confiscate it and later use it in return for money, which is something against our foundation's intent. We want to provide this machine for free," he said.

The machine used shockwaves and a cleverly designed iron net. The net is thrown on the ground and sends shockwaves to uncover any potential mines and causes them to detonate.

Israel laid hundreds of thousands of land mines throughout Southern Lebanon in past wars, and continues to withhold maps of where the deadly crop was sowed from Lebanese authorities. A partial map was given to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon last month. Israel also littered the South and parts of the Bekaa Valley with an estimated 1 million cluster bombs and thousands of unexploded ordnance during 34 days of fighting with Hizbullah this summer. Over 170 Lebanese, including 30 children, have been killed or wounded since the UN imposed cessation of hostilities came into effect on August 14.

Wakim said ARTID is presently searching for funding for their invention, and has approached Lebanese Army officials with the National Demining Office and representatives from the United Nations Mine Action Coor-dination Center in this regard. ARTID's efforts come amid growing international condemnation of the use of cluster bombs and land mines. A global treaty to prevent future deaths and maiming by clearing up unexploded bombs in war-stricken countries came into force on Sunday. The initial 25 signatory states must start removing unexploded shells, grenades, rockets and cluster bombs left over from conflicts or pay for their removal, under the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, signed in 2003. "This is the first international agreement to require the parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded munitions that threaten civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers once the fighting is over," the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Sunday. The world's main military powers participated in the formulating of the document, the ICRC said. However, world leaders such as China, Russia and the US have yet to sign it. Also absent from the signatories is Israel. The start date for the new protocol coincides with a UN conference to review another proposed treaty that would go one step further than a clean-up by banning some types of munitions. The conference runs in Geneva until November 17. Eighteen countries have voiced support for a new convention to ban cluster bombs, but Britain and the US remain opposed to the idea. A US official told the conference Washington held the view the alternative to cluster bombs was to use an increased number of high explosive rounds, which have a more devastating effect. The protocol enforced Sunday is an addition to an existing document, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which bans or restricts the use of some weapons that cause "unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants" or that indiscriminately affect civilians. Currently it covers some types of fragmentation shells, some land mines or booby traps, and the use of incendiary devices in civilian areas. - With AFP

For more information on ARTID please visit
www.artid.org, or call:, e-mail: association@artid.org

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