White House
January 17, 1997

STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY:
UNITED STATES ANNOUNCES NEXT STEPS ON ANTI-PERSONNEL LANDMINES

President Clinton today announced that when the Conference on Disarmament opens its 1997 session in Geneva on Monday, the United States will seek to initiate negotiations on a worldwide treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. As the President said before the UN General Assembly in September, "Our children deserve to walk the earth in safety." The United States hopes that the nations of the world will work with us to create that safety and ban the scourge of landmines, which every year kill or wound more than 25,000 civilians.

To give further impetus to this effort, the President has decided that the United States will observe a permanent ban on the export and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. This action builds on the Landmine Export Moratorium Act sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, which has temporarily prohibited the export and transfer of these weapons since 1992. We urge all other nations to join us in stopping the export and transfer of these mines, which will both hasten the completion of a comprehensive ban and save many innocent lives. As another step toward a ban, the President has decided to cap our anti-personnel landmine stockpile at the current level of inventory.

President Clinton last May announced the United States's intention to achieve as soon as possible a worldwide ban on landmines. In December in the UN General Assembly, nations voted 155-0 in favor of the U.S.-initiated resolution urging states to pursue such an agreement.

After extensive consultations with many countries, the President believes that the Conference on Disarmament offers the most practical and effective forum for achieving our aim of a ban that is global. Both the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention were successfully negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament.

The United States looks forward to the opening of the Conference on Disarmament on Monday as an opportunity to begin discussion of these initiatives and to make early progress on starting negotiations. At the same time, the United States welcomes efforts outside that forum, including the free-standing process initiated by Canada, that can help provide momentum to our common goal.