TRIPOLI, Oct 21 (Reuters) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has defended the use of landmines by weak countries countering aggression by stronger adversaries, and said the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel mines should be amended or scrapped.
''Powerful countries do not need landmines to protect themselves.
Mines are the means of self-defence of the weak countries,'' Gaddafi, whose country began a two-year term on the UN Security Council this month, said in a statement.
Eighty per cent of states have signed the 1997 convention banning antipersonnel mines. Libya, along with 37 other nations including the United States, China and Russia, has not signed the treaty, the first global accord against antipersonnel mines.
Hard to detect and clear and often designed to maim rather than kill, antipersonnel mines can stay in the soil for decades.
Activists estimate mines kill or injure 15,000 to 20,000 people a year -- mainly civilians in countries now at peace, but where the mines remain in the ground.
Gaddafi said he supported some parts of the convention -- removing all mines where the military situation that required their planting had ended, the treatment and rehabilitation of victims and rehabilitation of affected environments.
Nations also should be prohibited from planting mines in other countries and any that did so must remove them ''at their own expense and to compensate those affected by the mines''.
But he said the weapons could also have a legitimate role.
''There are other elements in the convention that cannot be accepted: 1. The complete prohibition of the manufacture and use of landmines. 2. The destruction of the stockpiles of landmines,'' the October 17 statement on Gaddafi's website said.
''If this simple defensive weapon is banned, how could the victims of aggression, who possess no effective offensive or defensive weapons, defend themselves against a stronger enemy capable of crossing their borders and occupying their land?'' ''The prohibition of landmines, the last and weakest means to defend one's land, means condemning the weak peoples to capitulation. It means that they have no way to defend themselves except with cudgels, axes and knives.'' He said the convention ''confused the necessary and the unnecessary, the harmful and the beneficial'' and should either be reformulated or abandoned. If the world really wanted to protect humanity, it should ban the manufacture and possession of weapons of mass destruction, he said.
Libya has only recently rehabilitated itself in Western eyes from the country that once allegedly sponsored terrorist groups and organised the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland that cost 270 lives.
The case led to U.N. sanctions on Libya, which, under a gradual shift of course by Gaddafi, eventually turned over suspects and admitted civil responsibility. Also key was Gaddafi's 2003 decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction programs.
REUTERS SKB VC1755