UPDATED AT 4:45 PM — Obama administration backs away from statement that it won't sign international landmine treaty (see below).
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is blasting Pres. Barack Obama's decision to refuse to sign a 10-year-old international treaty banning land mines.
The decision, which supports the position of the previous administration, comes as representatives of nations around the world meet this coming week in Cartagena, Colombia, to assesscompliance with the decade-old treaty.
“This is a default of U.S. leadership and a detour from the clear path of history,” Leahy said in a statement. “The United States is the most powerful nation on earth. We don't need these weapons and most of our allies have long ago abandoned them."
For two decades Leahy has been a leading voice in Congress advocating an international ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines. Leahy-backed legislation, which included the world’s first export ban on landmines, was a catalyst in launching the treaty effort.
In 1997, the year the international treaty was signed in Ottawa, Canada, Vermonter Jody Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines. The treaty went into effect two years later.
"It is a lost opportunity for the United States to show leadershipinstead of joining with China and Russia and impeding progress," Leahy said. "TheUnited States took some of the earliest and most effective steps torestrict the use of landmines. We should be leading this effort, notsitting on the sidelines.”
Leahy said the Obama administration’s review “can only be described as cursory and half-hearted.”