Sri Lanka given Japanese aid to clear mines

July 20, 2007 (AFP) – Japan said Friday it was giving 3.2 million dollars to clear land mines in Sri Lanka even as government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels stepped up attacks against each other.

The money will go to five international mine clearing charities and help civilians to go back to their homes in areas that have seen recent clashes between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels, officials said.

“The unprecedented laying of land mines continues to pose a serious danger to the people, and a great impediment in implementing relief and development work in the north and east,” said Japan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Kiyoshi Araki.

The de-mining programme would also help to resettle displaced civilians in Eastern Province, where security forces last week wrested full control from the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka estimates that about a million land mines have been laid by both sides in the conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972. Sri Lanka has not signed the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines.