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DU Row Threatening to Undermine NATO 13-1-2001
By CATHERINE FIELD Herald Correspondent

Killing the Children of Iraq

PARIS Nato is struggling to head off a rift as angry European members question United States leadership of the alliance over the health scare caused by depleted uranium shells. Yielding to demands from several angry European members, the US and Britain have in Kosovo in 1999, agreed to set up a special commission to see if there were any risks to NATO forces. The European Union, in an unprecedented challenge to Nato, has started its own probe, ostensibly to see if the weapons posed a hazard to civilian aid workers. These investigations, plus an inquiry in Kosovo by the United Natons Environment Progranune, could ravage public confidence in the alliance if anything nasty is found. Commentators said the alliance had failed disastrously at first to realise the depth of concem in many European countries, especially Italy and Greece, where the Kosovo war was never popular. "The Balkans Syndrome has just opened a new chapter of misunderstanding in relations between the US and Europe," said the Fench daily Le Figaro. Repeated reagsurances from the Pentagon about the safety of the munitions failed to make headway, leaving Nato with little option but to play the transParencY card. WithoUt public support, it would be impossible to keep peacekeepers in the Balkans, analysts said.

A European diplomat said the row was a huge complication for US-European relations in Nato, coinciding with George W. Bush's impending accession to the White House. Bush is already viewed guardedly by many European countries for his embrace of a planned US anti-missile shield, which many politicians say cowd be an unnecessary provocation to Russia, and his likely review of US force deployments overseas, which has been criticised as isolationist. This year will be a vital one for Europe in its search for a separate defence identity. By year's end, the EU should be able to call on up to 60,000 troops for peaeekeeping and humanitarian duties. How this can be done without alienating the US role in Nato is unclear. "Adjustments will have to be made to the balance of responsibility within the alliance, with the US making room for a more assertive Europe and according the EU a voice commensurate with a greater security role," said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank, and a fanner member of the National Security Council in the first Clinton Administration. "Over the long term, this rebalancing of the security burden is essential to preserving the atlantic link." The chairman of the French national Assembly's defence commission, ex-Defence Minister Paul Quiles, said the affair highlighted "one of the fundamental problems" in Nato. "The US remains inclined to take unilateral decisions without informing its allies even after the fact."

Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 23:56 GMT Nato moves to ease uranium fears

Nato used DU munitions in its bombing of Yugoslavia Nato has announced a range of measures to try to allay concern over the health effects of depleted uranium ammunition.

But speaking in Brussels, the Nato Secretary-General, Lord Robertson, insisted that the fears were misplaced.

And he said Nato would not give in to demands from member countries, such as Italy and Germany, to suspend the use of the weapons.

Depleted uranium (DU) has been blamed for a number of leukaemia cases among former peacekeepers who served in the Balkans.

"We are confident that there is little risk from DU munitions, but we refuse to be complacent," Lord Robertson told journalists at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

Click here to see where illness has been reported

"The existing medical consensus is clear. The hazard from depleted uranium is both very limited and limited to very specific circumstances," he argued.

But Lord Robertson accepted that Nato's assurances were not being accepted in many quarters.

The BBC defence correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says Nato is embarking upon a full-scale action plan to try to minimise concern by disseminating and exchanging information on DU among allied governments.

The plan includes:

A new committee to study further the effects of DU Providing details of locations struck by DU weapons Liaising with other international organisations Co-ordinating research

Armour piercing

Nato aircraft fired tens of thousands of DU rounds during Nato's 1995 bombing of Bosnian Serb targets and 1999 air war against Yugoslavia.

The rounds are denser than standard ammunition, making them more effective against armour.

Depleted uranium gives off relatively low levels of radiation, but can be dangerous if ingested, inhaled as dust or if it enters the body through cuts or wounds.

As a heavy metal, it is also chemically poisonous in addition to being radioactively poisonous.

Six Italian soldiers, five Belgians, two Dutch nationals, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech national have died after serving in the Balkans. Four French soldiers and five Belgians have also contracted leukaemia.

On Tuesday, US Defence Secretary William Cohen reiterated the position of both Washington and London that no link had been proven between depleted uranium and the cases of cancer among former peacekeeping troops.

Nevertheless, the UK Government has now agreed to the medical screening of its personnel in the Balkans, a measure already adopted by Italy, Portugal and other Nato allies.

And the European Union has launched its own investigation, which will include an assessment of whether spent DU shells pose any health risks for workers taking part in reconstruction programmes.

Yugoslav liaison

Earlier on Wednesday, Lord Robertson met the new Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic - the first Yugoslav minister to visit Nato headquarters since the alliance bombed Yugoslav forces in Kosovo.

The two sides agreed to share all available information about depleted uranium residues in the Balkans.

A Portuguese minister, meanwhile, said an independent Portuguese investigation had turned up no significant examples of increased radiation after studying 52 sites in Kosovo.

Russian politicians and generals say initial screening has found no illness among its soldiers who served in the Balkans.

Iraq seeks uranium probe Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 16:58 GMT

Thousands of DU-tipped shells were used in the Gulf War Iraq has called on the United Nations and other international bodies to investigate the effects of weapons containing depleted uranium used during the 1991 Gulf War, as well as in the Balkans.

An Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said the reports of cancer among Nato soldiers who served in Bosnia and Kosovo backed up what Baghdad had been saying about the "disastrous consequences" of depleted uranium for people and the environment.

The spokesman, quoted by the official Iraqi news agency, said the use of such weapons in Iraq had caused an abnormal rise in cases of leukaemia and cancers of the lung, skin and digestive system, particularly among children.

He also blamed depleted uranium for the increase in congenital diseases and deformities.


"Iraq requests the creation of an international tribunal to put US and British officials on trial for crimes against humanity and the genocide carried out by the Americans and British in Iraq and Yugoslavia," the spokesman said.

He accused the two governments of "deliberately concealing" the effects of DU weapons "to mislead public opinion".

Leukaemia, which affects blood and bone marrow, was relatively rare in Iraq before 1990.

But according to the Iraqi Health Ministry, there has been a fourfold increase in the incidence of the disease since then - a figure that is now generally accepted by international agencies such as the World Health Organisation.

Gulf War Syndrome

Baghdad says US and UK forces fired more than 940,000 armour-piercing DU projectiles during the 1991 conflict over Kuwait.

Several countries, including Italy and Germany, want a moratorium on the weapons after a rash of leukaemia cases among former peacekeepers who served in the Balkans.

DU is used because it is so heavy, easily puncturing the armour of tanks.

On impact it vaporises, and can be breathed in.

More than 100,000 Gulf War veterans have suffered unexplained medical problems since they returned from the conflict.

Children from Kamaran in Kosovo play on a Yugoslav Army tank hit by US A-10 tankbusters during Nato's 1999 bombing campaign.

DU risks 'known for decade' 13.01.2001

LONDON - European fears over depleted uranium munitions continued to snowball yesterday as Nato's top official denied the issue threatened to split the 19-nation alliance and the United Nations demanded wider health checks.

Also yesterday, further evidence emerged that the risks of DU have been known for several years.

"I believe the way we have handled this issue shows that Nato remains strong, is still united and is still one of the most effective defensive alliances the world has ever known," Nato Secretary-General George Robertson said.

United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, on a swansong tour of Europe, said Nato was taking seriously European concerns over possible health risks from DU in munitions used in the 1999 air offensive on Yugoslavia.

"I hope this is not an issue that is being used by others for their personal agendas," said Albright, who has warned against letting hysteria dominate discussion of the so-called Balkans Syndrome.

Top UN environmental officials called for rigorous checks for possible health risks at war sites not only in Kosovo but also in Bosnia. The UN has begun to place warning markers at the scene of Nato airstrikes in Kosovo.

Senior defence officials in Russia, allied with Yugoslavia during the 1999 onslaught, said the Atlantic alliance should meet any costs of cleaning up land contaminated by its DU munitions in the course of that campaign.

In a further sign of the growing public anger over the issue, around 2000 Greek leftists marched through central Athens to the US Embassy in a noisy protest against Nato and its use of DU munitions in the Balkans.

"Put an end to Nato death. Bring our Greek troops home now," read one banner. "American People-Killers" read another.

The US, along with Nato and Britain, insists there is no evidence of a link between the use of DU weapons and cases of leukaemia in troops who have served in the Balkans.

The BBC reported yesterday that the British Government was first warned of the possible danger of DU to its troops at least a decade ago. And an even earlier warning was issued in the US in 1990.

The British Government is denying news reports on Thursday of being told of the dangers of DU to its troops in 1997.

But, the BBC reported yesterday, a warning was made in 1991 by an official at AEA Technology, the trading arm of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. He sent a document to the Royal Ordnance in London, the company that makes DU ammunition for the Ministry of Defence.

The document looked at what might happen if all the DU fired in the Gulf War by tanks - about 8 per cent of the total DU used there - were inhaled. If that happened, it said, the latest International Commission on Radiological Protection risk factor calculated that there would be half a million deaths as a result by 2000.

The ministry in fact knew there were some toxic and radioactive risks associated with DU as far back as 1979.

The 1990 warning came from the US-based Science Applications International Corporation. It said the short-term effects of high doses of DU could end in death and the long-term effects of low doses had been implicated in cancer.

And a 1995 report from the US Army Environmental Policy Institute said: "If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences."

Robertson said yesterday that there was still no scientific evidence that exposure to DU weapons had caused cancer among the peacekeepers. "There is no proven link between the use of depleted uranium and the illnesses for which it has been blamed."

Other alliance member states were less sure. Italy has demanded Nato investigate whether the deaths of at least seven of its soldiers from leukaemia after tours of duty in Kosovo and Bosnia were because of the Balkans Syndrome.

Cases of cancer have also been reported among soldiers from France, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Portugal.

A Portuguese team began testing radiation levels in Bosnia yesterday after conducting similar tests in Kosovo last week.

Monday, 15 January, 2001, 17:26 GMT Serb doctor's uranium warning

Nato plane in action above Kosovo A top Serb doctor says he has found many cases of serious health problems probably due to weapons used in the Bosnian conflict.

Dr Zoran Stankovic, a pathologist and the head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, has toured the areas in which contamination is thought to be most severe.

He says that not only depleted uranium, but also deposits left behind in shell craters, may be causing illness.

His evidence adds weight to those who are calling for an investigation into the health risks associated with depleted uranium (DU) used in armour-piercing weaponry in both Bosnia and later in Kosovo.

Nato insists there is no evidence of a link between DU and higher incidences of cancer and leukaemia reported by troops who served in the Balkans.

Seven Italians, five Belgians, two Dutch nationals, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech national have died after serving in the Balkans. Four French soldiers have also contracted leukaemia.

Dr Stankovic said illnesses comparable to "Gulf War Syndrome", as well as unexpectedly high cancer rates are appearing in the local population.

Speaking to BBC News Online, he described the case of one girl who fell into a coma after playing in a recently-made bomb crater.

Coma peril

He said: "Just a few days later her fingernails as well as toenails started falling out.

"She began suffering from various health problems, such as asthmatic bronchitis, and inflammation of the respiratory organs and airways."

She fell into a coma a year later, recovering after five days in a specialist children's unit, but still suffers from epilepsy and powerful headaches, he said.

He said that other ingredients of the shells used in the conflict had caused health problems, alleging that fluoride deposits left behind had been rendered highly acidic by damp conditions.

He said: "We've had cases of not only fingernails coming out, but the fingers themselves."

He has also conducted his own studies of cancer rates following the Bosnian conflict, examining the health of thousands of people who had been living in an area, Hadzici, which suffered heavy bombardment by DU shells.

He said: "That group of people developed a large number of malignant diseases, after the first two or three years, as well as an increased mortality rate.

"Four hundred of them have died so far - more than 10% of the original population of Hadzici which moved away following the bombardment.

"Our initial suspicion was that there was a link to the effects of depleted uranium."

He is calling for a wider investigation of the higher death rates.

The cancers which arose in the refugees from Hadzici, he said, were often in the lung, liver, and kidney, he said.

"Nobody can claim that all those malignant diseases are the consequence of depleted uranium. I would suggest we investigate that group of people where we can still today clearly follow changes."

Many people had worked in a factory repairingtanks andarmoured vehicles that was heavily bombed by NATO in 1994. Depleted uranium found on the ground was also used in flak jackets.

DU dangers 'known' before Gulf WarnMonday, 15 January, 2001, 21:57 GMT

Radiation checks are under way in Bosnia and Kosovo Fresh evidence has come to light of long-standing military concern about the potential health effects of depleted uranium (DU).

Documents obtained by the BBC suggest that the United States military was concerned about weapons containing DU even before the Gulf War, exactly 10 years ago.

The revelations come as the medical chiefs of the Nato alliance meet in Brussels to assess the health scare, and a Portugese team in the Balkans reports that its initial inquiries have found no trace of the metal.

Scientists from Lisbon's Institute of Nuclear Technology searched for radioactivity at Portuguese-occupied barracks in Visoko, 30 kilometres from Sarajevo.

The head of the team, Fernando Carvalho, told Portugese television: "We were expecting to find some traces of it, but until now all the screening carried out on the soldiers and vehicles from these barracks has been negative."

Nato insists there is no evidence of a link between DU and higher incidences of cancer and leukaemia reported by troops who served in the Balkans.

Seven Italians, five Belgians, two Dutch nationals, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech national have died after serving in the Balkans. Four French soldiers have also contracted leukaemia.

The World Health Organisation says "uncertainties remain", and several Nato member states have launched their own investigations into the matter.

Warning bells

The US Army expressed concern about the use of DU in July 1990, some six months before the outbreak of the Gulf War, where it was used in armour-piercing shells.

The BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says significant concerns about health and environmental risks were included in the appendix of a report comparing the effectiveness of tungsten alloy and DU in armour-piercing ammunition.

The US report also suggested that the use of these weapons might cause public controversy.

A Pentagon spokesman dismissed the concerns, saying the report is 10 years old and that a lot of scientific work has been done since then.

Nato also denies DU causes health problems, but in the face of mounting public fears decided last week to set up a special committee to investigate the concerns raised in several European countries.


The committee is due to meet for the first time on Tuesday, after Nato members' medical officers exchange information on Monday.

Italy - following the deaths from leukaemia of at least seven of its Balkan veterans - has asked Nato to start an investigation.

Several other EU countries have already started their own inquiries, and the European Commission has set up a working group of medical and scientific experts that is due to report next month.

Last week, the German Government said it could not establish a link between possible DU contamination and a blood related illness suffered by six German soldiers.

But a study commissioned by the German Ministry of Defence warned that steps should be taken to prevent potential danger to the local population, particularly children, who may play in areas where DU weapons exploded, releasing toxic chemicals.

Genesis of Eden Diversity Encyclopedia

Get the Genesis of Eden AV-CD by secure internet order >> CLICK_HERE
Windows / Mac Compatible. Includes live video seminars, enchanting renewal songs and a thousand page illustrated codex.

Join  SAKINA-Weave A transformative network reflowering Earth's living diversity in gender reunion.

Return to Genesis