NATO to help Jordan deal with land mines, other explosives

NATO signed an agreement with Jordan on Monday to help the Middle Eastern nation deal with land mines and other explosives left over from decades of conflict in the region. Under the agreement, NATO will set up a US$5 million trust fund to finance a two-year program to locate and destroy unexploded ordinance and obsolete munitions. Mine fields were laid in Jordan during Middle East conflicts from the 1940s to the 1970s. In 2006, Jordan had 160,000 land mines remaining mostly in a 100-kilometer strip along the northern border with Syria, according to the Jordanian National Committee for Demining and Reconciliation. Jordan aims to complete demining by May 2009. NATO has previously launched such projects to help destroy explosives and surplus weapons in Eastern Europe, but this is the first with one of the seven nations in the alliance's "Mediterranean Dialogue" outreach program with North African and the Middle East. "It will mark the start of a new, innovative kind of cooperation, where civilian and military expertise is combined in the destruction of redundant ammunition stockpiles and unexploded ordnance," said Claudio Bisogniero, NATO's deputy secretary general.