WASHINGTON (December 3, 1997) -- The refusal of the United States to join more than 100 other nations signing a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines this week in Ottawa is a deep disappointment for Catholics and their Bishops, according to a letter delivered to President Clinton today.
"Even if the United States is not responsible for the indiscriminate use of landmines in Angola or elsewhere, their terrible moral and human costs should compel us to help ban them, not resist or delay work toward this urgent moral imperative" said Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, Vice President of the U.S. bishops' conference. Citing Pope John Paul II's call on all nations to adhere to the landmine ban, he noted that, "without the United States, this noble effort to achieve an effective global ban will be seriously undermined."
In response to Clinton administration objections to the treaty, Bishop Fiorenza said, "We do not underestimate the challenge of developing alternatives to anti-personnel landmines that will resolve these concerns, but if alternatives exist, and many experts say they do, the United States has a moral responsibility to pursue them -- not in the distant future but now."
Bishop Fiorenza welcomed the "the useful steps" taken by the Administration toward a ban, including a new initiative on demining, but urged the President to support pending legislation which would end U.S. deployments of anti-personnel landmines -- except in Korea -- in 2000.
"Passage of this legislation could help the United States regain its moral leadership on this issue, and further the process of stigmatizing these indiscriminate weapons ...."