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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 20, 1998
                       STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
                                 TO THE

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Washington Conference on Global Humanitarian Demining.

This Conference fulfills a commitment I made last October when Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen announced the "Demining 2010 Initiative." We set as our goal the elimination, by the end of the next decade, of the threat posed by landmines to civilians. Landmine contamination is not only a pressing humanitarian problem, but it affects virtually every aspect of life in countries recovering from civil war or armed conflict.

We long ago realized that reaching this goal would require a concerted effort by the international community, and we have been heartened by the response -- your response -- so far. Each of the countries and organizations represented at this conference plays a critical role in this effort, and your presence here is testimony to the importance the international community attaches to this enormous task.

Almost four years ago, I called for the global elimination of landmines. Since then, the U.S. has been at the forefront of the efforts to rid the world of these hidden killers. Not only have we destroyed millions of landmines in our own arsenal and banned their export, but we have also provided a substantial share of the global resources for humanitarian demining.

The Washington Conference is an opportunity for us to set a course for the future together, and move toward a goal we all share: to eliminate as quickly as possible the scourge of anti-personnel landmines that kill and main civilians. This conference builds on the efforts of many other countries and individuals, including, of course, the remarkable accomplishment of the Ottawa process, making this a truly global endeavor.

We have come a long way, but much remains to be done. It is my hope that the Washington Conference will inspire a new commitment on the part of all present to ensure an increase in the level and effectiveness of effort and resources the world dedicates to the challenge of humanitarian demining.

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