[JURIST] US Pentagon officials are in the final stages of determining whether to implement a new weapons program that would mandate the production of a new era of landmines, dubbed "networked munitions", in the face of international opposition to such weapons. Doreen Chaplin, division chief for network munitions in the Army, said the new program, entitled "Spider", is a better alternative to persistent mines [US landmine policy] because the new mines are controlled by humans and either shut themselves off or their batteries expire after 30 days, leaving them inactive. Munitions used in the Spider program can also operate like a traditional minefield, without any human control, but officials have insisted that would not be its primary use. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has voiced its opposition saying the mines' capability to detonate without operator control violates international consensus on such weapons. 143 countries have ratified the Ottawa treaty [text] which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines, and requires that mined areas be cleared within 10 years. The US, China and Russia are among 51 countries that have refused to sign on to the treaty. A final decision on whether to start munitions production will be made in December 2005. AP has more.