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New Zealand to help de-mining in Sri Lanka

New Zealand to help de-mining in Sri Lanka

New Zealand is providing $140,000 to help fund a United Nations led de-mining programme in Sri Lanka, Aid Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

The funding will be channelled through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Total costs of reconstruction in the war-torn North and East of Sri Lanka have been provisionally estimated at US$2.8 billion.

"New Zealand has developed a good relationship with Sri Lanka over the last 50 years," Marian Hobbs said. "We share commonwealth links. We both love cricket and our economic ties are relatively strong.

"We also have a vibrant Sri Lankan community in New Zealand who are concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka.

"It's a tragedy that conflict between Government forces and the Tamil Tigers has resulted in large numbers of unexploded mines abandoned or left across the country."

The UN led de-mining programme in partnership with Sri Lankans, is determined to free the country of mines by 2006.

"The cost of doing nothing is immense. Not only are people still killed or maimed, but refugees can’t return to their homes, and access to land and social services is reduced," Marian Hobbs said.

New Zealand's de-mining expertise and financial assistance is currently used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos and Mozambique.

"There's something about New Zealanders that makes us good at de-mining work. Perhaps it's our practical 'can-do' attitude, our calm approach in a crisis, or maybe our ability to develop working partnerships with local people. Whatever it is we're good at it and we'll continue to contribute where we can," Marian Hobbs said.

The new funding will go towards urgent requirements identified by the de-mining teams, like medical training, equipment and removing inaccuracies in map databases.

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