DU Weapons & the Balkan Syndrome [Jan 9th Compilation]


From: "Janet M Eaton" <jeaton _-at-_ fox.nstn.ca>
To: mai-not _-at-_ flora.org
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001 01:53:15 +0000

DU Weapons & the Balkan Syndrome  [Jan 9th Compilation]
Prepared by Janet M Eaton

[1] Italy to ask NATO to suspend uranium weapons use 
Reuters News Service 
[2] Depleted uranium worries raised for Scotland seas 
Reuters News Service 
[3] EU orders nuclear experts to look into effects of
uranium arms  BRUSSELS, Jan 9 (AFP) - 
[4]  NATO Shoots Down Italy's Plea BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) 
January 9, 2001 (Srna) 
ROME, Italy, January 9, 2001 (Tanjug) 
[7] Germany ignored uranium warning 
The Times (London)
[8] Croatia to Ask NATO about Uranium in Adriatic Sea
[9] Schroeder tells Nato to ban use of toxic shells 
The Independent 
[1] Italy to ask NATO to suspend uranium weapons use
Reuters News Service 
By Raffaella Malaguti 
ITALY: January 9, 2001

ROME - Italy will ask NATO on Tuesday to introduce a moratorium on
the use of depleted uranium ammunition until the alliance was certain
it was not linked to leukaemia among soldiers exposed to it, Italy's
defence minister said.

Speaking on a late-night television programme on Monday, Defence
Minister Sergio Mattarella said Italy would make the request at a
meeting of NATO's political committee in Brussels on Tuesday.

Italy has led a recent wave of demands from NATO member states to
probe the health risks to troops serving in the Balkans, where the
uranium ammunition was used.

"We shall ask...the alliance to avoid using (depleted uranium
ammunition) until we are certain it is not dangerous," Mattarella
told the programme on state television RAI.

Armour-piercing depleted uranium ammunition has taken centre stage in
recent weeks after claims that the death from leukaemia of six
Italian soldiers who had served in the Balkans were linked to the
peacekeepers' exposure to the spent ammunition.

"While doubts exist as to whether the illnesses and deaths of Italian
soldiers may or may not be attributable to depleted uranium, and,
considering this substance could pollute the environment, I think it
would be be fair to ask that before using this ammunition (again)
NATO evaluates the issue and suspends its use," Mattarella said.

NATO's political advisers were due to discuss the depleted uranium
issue ahead of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the
alliance's permanent ambassadors, in Brussels on Wednesday.

NATO's medical chiefs were also scheduled to discuss the issue next
week as were European Union foreign ministers at their monthly
meeting on January 22.

Fears the ammunition could be linked to the deaths of Italian
soldiers has sparked outrage in Italy and has made headlines in the
Italian media for weeks.

Italy's Defence Ministry has set up a special commission to look into
at least six deaths and some 12 other leukaemia cases among soldiers
who served in Bosnia and Kosovo.

A separate probe has also been opened by a Rome military court and
the defence committee of the lower house of parliament was due to
discuss the risks of depleted uranium ammunition later on Tuesday.

Other deaths or illnesses claimed to be linked to the weapons have
also been reported in Portugal, Belgium and France, which have also
urged NATO to look into the issue.

But as calls for clarity mount - Germany, Russia and European
Commission President Romano Prodi have also asked for an
investigation - US military leaders and NATO chiefs insist there is
no known risk of contamination.

World Health Organisation (WHO) experts said on Monday they doubted
depleted uranium weapons had caused leukaemia among Balkan veterans.

US attack jets fired some 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium
ammunition during NATO's 1999 campaign to end Serb repression of
ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. About 10,000 rounds were also fired in
neighbouring Bosnia in 1994-95.

Story by Raffaella Malaguti 


[2] Depleted uranium worries raised for Scotland seas
UK: January 9, 2001

LONDON - A new front opened on Monday in the probe into the safety of
depleted uranium ammunition as environmentalists demanded the cleanup
of waters around Scotland where shells were test fired for 10 years.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth and a Scottish
parliamentarian demanded the cleanup after Britain's defence ministry
said it had fired more than 6,000 shells containing depleted uranium
into west Scotland's Solway Firth over the past decade and left them
on the seabed.

Richard Dixon, spokesman for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:
"This is a very serious issue, particularly in light of reports of
illness among soldiers in Bosnia."

"We are calling on the Defence Ministry to bring in their detection
equipment and remove these shells," he said.

The use of depleted uranium in Kosovo and Bosnia has triggered concern
among some European NATO members that it might be linked to illness
among Balkan peacekeepers, a condition dubbed "Balkans Syndrome" after
reports that six Italian soldiers who served in the former Yugoslavia
had developed leukaemia and died.

Scottish Nationalist Party parliamentarian Aladair Morgan joined in
the demand for a clean up of the seabed.

"If it's good enough to ban beef on the bone on the basis of a (very
small)...risk then it would be very sensible to recover all these DU
shells and take them away from the area," he told the BBC.

A spokeswoman for the defence ministry said the military was unable to
recover the shells "The shells disappear into the silt on the sea-bed
making retrieval almost impossible," she said.

She said that tests on the ammunition showed the firings do not pose a
significant risk to marine life or the public.



[3] EU orders nuclear experts to look into effects of uranium arms
Tuesday, January 9 10:38 PM SGT 
BRUSSELS, Jan 9 (AFP) - 

Responding to worries about possible cancer-causing weapons used in
the Balkans, the European Union on Tuesday ordered experts from its
nuclear energy agency to assess whether the munitions pose a risk.
Ambassadors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation also met to
discuss the controversy over depleted uranium (DU) ammunition, which
was used in the Balkans and has been blamed for causing cancer in some
military personnel who served there. But NATO ambassadors were
expected to leave decisions to the permanent council which meets
Wednesday and could name a body to lead an inquiry into the possible
health risks. The EU experts -- doctors and scientists who specialise
in radiation and its effects -- are members of the so-called Group 31,
which was set up as an independent task force by Euratom, the European
nuclear energy agency. The European Union will "draw the necessary
conclusions for its personnel and for setting up aid programs in the
Balkans" based on the expert findings, said EU spokesman
Jean-Christopher Filori. Details of their inquiry have not been
finalised but EU officials said they may travel to the site where the
weapons were used and will have access to all necessary documents. EU
countries are considering an aid program to Bosnia and Yugoslavia if
the weapons have caused a potential health risk, Filori added. German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder ratcheted up the pressure on NATO and the
EU to tackle the issue seriously by saying on Monday that it was not
"right" to use the weapons. "We want to know if there is a
relationship between cases of diseases (of soldiers) and the use of
this ammunition," Schroeder said in Hanover. "All the facts must be
laid on the table", Schroeder said. European politicians have been
pressing for an account of DU's health risks following the suspicious
deaths of several European soldiers who served in Bosnia and Kosovo,
but NATO's top brass and doctors said links to cancer have not been
found. In Moscow, the Russian defense ministry said a group of experts
would be dispatched to Kosovo to examine the zones where Russian
peacekeepers are stationed to see if NATO used depleted uranium shells
there. Britain's defence ministry was also reported on Tuesday to be
ready to announce screening of its soldiers to check for the effects
of depleted uranium. Junior defence minister John Spellar was due to
make the announcement in parliament, according to a defence ministry
spokesman. The NATO meeting was called at the request of Italy, where
there have been 18 suspected cases of "Balkans Syndrome" cancers,
eight of whom have already died, according to a defense ministry
medical commission. As the controversy heated up, US Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright said Monday there was no proof of a link
between the munitions and the deaths of NATO soldiers. "There is
absolutely no proof that there's a connection. We have forces there
also, so we would have been concerned," she told reporters at the
United Nations headquarters. However retired general Wesley Clark, who
was NATO's supreme allied commander during the Kosovo conflict, warned
that soldiers should take precautions when handling the material. "It
is clear that it's up to the military chiefs to warn (soldiers) of all
possible dangers, to recommend that nothing be touched," Clark said in
an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. The New York
Times said on Tuesday that Washington had warned its NATO allies to
take special precautions on entering Kosovo because of depleted
uranium in US ammunition. The newspaper said recommendations were made
in a document called "hazard awareness" that it received from a
military official from a NATO country. UN observers have discovered
the presence of radioactivity at eight sites in Kosovo where DU
warheads exploded. According to experts, the danger from the
munitions, designed to penetrate the armour of heavy tanks, comes not
from the low-level radiation they emit but from the poisonous dust
created on impact.


[4]  NATO Shoots Down Italy's Plea
Associated Press Writer
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- NATO quickly shot down an Italian plea
Tuesday for a moratorium on tank-busting weapons that contain depleted
uranium -- weapons that some European nations fear may cause cancer.
Italy made a long presentation to NATO's Political Committee about its
concerns for Italian troops who have served as peacekeepers in Bosnia
and Kosovo, where weapons using depleted uranium have been fired. But
several NATO members opposed any moratorium, some quite strongly,
according to sources familiar with the discussions at the meeting.
Tuesday's Political Committee meeting was the first occasion for all
of NATO's 19 members to discuss the matter since the latest wave of
concern about depleted uranium emerged. Depleted uranium, a slightly
radioactive heavy metal, is used in anti-armor munitions because of
its high penetrating power. U.S. forces fired weapons containing
depleted uranium in Bosnia in 1994 and 1995, and in 1999, NATO fired
such weapons during its bombing of Yugoslavia. Numerous studies into
the effects of depleted uranium have not revealed any connection
between the metal and cancer. But concerns among European nations have
intensified since Italy began studying the illnesses of 30 Balkans
veterans, six of whom died of cancer, including five cases of
leukemia. In France, four soldiers are being treated for leukemia. And
a number of nations and aid agencies have begun screening personnel
who have served in the Balkans. At NATO's meeting, all members agreed
that there is a common concern and that NATO needs to act. The results
of the Political Committee discussions were to be passed on to the
North Atlantic Council, NATO's top policymaking body, which meets
Wednesday. It was expected that the council may develop some
recommendations. Across town at the European Union, meanwhile, the
EU's executive arm asked a group of experts for a scientific opinion
on whether EU personnel who have worked in the Balkans might face
health risks from exposure to depleted uranium. EU spokesman Gunnar
Wiegand said the EU experts from the member states should have a
clearly defined opinion by early next month. Based on their opinion,
the EU's executive arm will decide how to adapt its aid programs in
the region. European officials cautioned that determining whether
there is a link between depleted uranium and any illness may take a
long time. Nonetheless, anxiety about depleted uranium popped up in a
host of European nations Tuesday. In Norway, about 400 peacekeepers
refused to sign contracts for service in Yugoslavia, demanding
clarification of the risk from depleted uranium, the TV-2 network
reported. In Romania, the government announced plans to test almost
1,500 soldiers who served as peacekeepers in the Balkans. In Belgium,
a group of soldiers announced plans Tuesday to sue the Belgian
government because of health problems allegedly caused by service in
the Balkans. The group said five Belgian veterans of peacekeeping
missions in Croatia and Bosnia have died of cancer and four others
have contracted the disease. In Germany, the government urged NATO to
impose a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium ammunition, and the
U.S. Army Europe denied a published report that American soldiers may
have fired depleted uranium ammunition during training exercises in
the country. In Kosovo, meanwhile, the depleted uranium scare was
becoming a political issue: A key ethnic Albanian leader said Tuesday
that the scare is being misused by those who opposed NATO intervention
in Kosovo in hopes it will lead to the withdrawal of the NATO-led
peacekeeping force. Ibrahim Rugova named no countries but appeared to
be alluding to Russia, a vehement critic of the 1999 NATO bombing
campaign. [Damn those Untermenschen Slavs! Besides, NATO is our air
force, cluster bombs and uranium dust and dismembered refugees and all
- IR]


===== AIM NEWS for Tuesday, January 09, 2001 =====

PRISTINA, January 9, 2001 (Srna)

     The outgoing head of the UN civil mission in Kosovo today asked
the World Health Organization to send radiation experts to Kosovo as a
matter of urgency. 

     Bernard Kouchner wants the WHO to join the investigation into the
after-effects of the depleted uranium ammunition used in the NATO
bombing of 1999. 

     An UNMIK representative said that the majority of countries
within KFOR were now planning to send medical teams to examine their
soldiers after fears that the substance could cause cancers. 


===== AIM NEWS for Tuesday, January 09, 2001 =====

ROME, Italy, January 9, 2001 (Tanjug) 

     Italian senators, representatives of National alliance Etore
Bucciero and Antonio Caruzzo announced on Monday that "the vaccines
are the cause of Balkan syndrome", shedding a new light on the panic
caused by the onset of leukemia and other forms of cancer with Italian
soldiers who served in the missions on the Balkans. 

     "The reality much more dramatic and shameful is coming to the
surface since the ministry of health and High institute for health
missed to announce the real cause of appearance of "Balkan syndrome"
are vaccines", Italian senators stress out. 

     "It has been a while since the above mentioned health 
institutions were aware of the existence of clinical cases which they
have been examining. There are 600 ill people, which indicated the
close relation between the usage of vaccines and the onset of diseases
with grave health consequences for the soldiers. Not any of them has
said yet that the solders have suffered a lethal blow of vaccines -
the compulsory vaccines and optional ones. In many cases the rule for
waiting for time interval between two vaccines was not obeyed which,
as scientifically proved, caused the immune system failure with many
soldiers", senators Bucciero and Caruzzo stress out.


[7] Germany ignored uranium warning 
The Times (London)


THE Berlin Government ignored warnings of potential health risks
associated with American depleted uranium shells during the Balkans
offensive. Rudolf Scharping, the Defence Minister, was urged in a
letter from Admiral Elmar Schmähling to prevent German troops coming
into contact with the shells or vehicles hit by them. The letter was
sent on June 14, 1999, after the 78-day Nato air campaign in Kosovo
and Serbia. No protective measures were taken as a result.

Internal German Defence Ministry correspondence shows that the issue
did not disappear. Peter Wichert, a junior Defence Minister, passed
on Nato guidance that there was "a possible toxic danger" in the war
zone. But the same memo concluded: "Nato currently has no plans for

In Italy, there are indications that fears of a link between
leukaemia affecting troops who served in Bosnia and Kosovo and the
use of depleted uranium shells in both operations is having a serious
impact on recruiting. General Franco Angioni, a retired commander,
said that the scare over depleted uranium was giving potential
recruits "pause for thought". 

Italy is in the process of changing from a conscripted army to a
professional force. "We should have 50,000 professional recruits
being processed at this stage, but in fact we only have 20,000," he
told Il Messaggero. 

Eight Italian soldiers have died from leukaemia or cancerous tumours
after serving in the Balkans. A German Red Cross nurse has also died.

In Greece, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, the Defence Minister, said he would
not rule out withdrawing the 1,600 Greek soldiers from Kosovo if a
link was found between leukaemia and the use of depleted uranium
weapons, although he pledged his Government would not act

Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, called on Nato yesterday to
release all available information on the use of depleted uranium. He
made clear that he opposed using such weapons. 

The World Health Organisation said yesterday that it doubted that
depleted uranium shells used by the Americans in the Balkans over the
past decade had caused blood cancer among Nato troops. 

"Based on our studies it is unlikely that soldiers in Kosovo ran a
high risk of contracting leukaemia from exposure to radiation from
depleted uranium," Michael Repacholi, an expert from the
organisation, said. However, he said that children playing in former
conflict areas where the weapons had exploded could be at risk. 

A Serbian health official said yesterday that tests carried out on
500 civilians in southern Serbia, where American depleted uranium
shells had exploded, had uncovered no linked illnesses. 

In Britain, the Ministry of Defence said that the Army and the Royal
Navy held stocks of depleted uranium weapons. The Army had a stock of
depleted uranium shells for use by Challenger tanks, and the Navy's
Type 42 destroyers and one aircraft carrier were equipped with the
Phalanx Gatling gun, which fired depleted uranium shells. 

The Royal Society is studying the possible health risks posed by
depleted uranium weapons. In a statement yesterday, Professor Brian
Heap, vice-president of the society, said the study had not been
commissioned by the Ministry of Defence. He added: "We wish to
emphasise that the study was initiated independently. It will be
carrying out its estimates of exposure, doses and health effects
during and after the use of depleted uranium munitions." 

Professor Brian Spratt, who is carrying out the study, said that it
was right to take the issue seriously. He told Channel 4: "We do have
to be careful because depleted uranium is mildy radioactive and it's
chemically poisonous." 

Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said an independent
inquiry into Nato's use of depleted uranium shells should be
conducted by the UN, WHO and International Atomic Energy Agency.


[8] Croatia to Ask NATO about Uranium in Adriatic Sea

ZAGREB, Jan 8, 2001 -- (Reuters) Croatia will ask NATO to clarify
whether the Adriatic Sea may have been contaminated by depleted
uranium contained in bombs used in a 1999 aerial campaign against
Yugoslavia, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said on Monday.

"Yes, we shall ask for precise information about the possible
contamination of the Adriatic, for very understandable reasons. This
government has to ensure safe living conditions in its territory,"
Racan told a news conference.

During NATO's extensive bombing campaign of neighboring Yugoslavia in
spring 1999, bombers flying back to bases in Italy released dumped
unexploded missiles into the Adriatic before landing.

It has never been made clear if those missiles contained depleted
uranium or if the material could have leaked into the sea.

NATO has come under increasing pressure from several European
governments over claims that depleted uranium used in its weapons has
caused death or illness among Balkan peacekeepers -- dubbed "Balkans

Italy, France and Russia have called on NATO to examine the claims
and Portugal has begun testing military and civilian personnel who
served in the Balkans.

The United Nations says it has found evidence of radioactivity at
eight of 11 sites tested in Kosovo after they were struck by NATO
ammunition with depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium is used in the tips of missiles, shells and bullets
to increase their ability to penetrate armor and can be pulverized on
impact into a toxic radioactive dust, defense experts say.


[9] Schroeder tells Nato to ban use of toxic shells 
Fom "The Independent" of January 9, 2001
h tml
By Imre Karacsin Berlin, Stephen Castle in Stockholm and Elizabeth
Nash in Madrid 

9 January 2001

Germany called for the banning of uranium shells yesterday as several
European countries ordered health checks for soldiers who served in
the Balkans, while Nato and the EU scheduled urgent meetings to
discuss the risks. 

Although the United States continued to deny its armour-piercing
shells made out of depleted uranium posed a threat, several Nato
allies came close to accusing Washington of lying. "I have a healthy
scepticism about munitions that can damage our own troops when they
are fired," said the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. "I don't
consider it right to use such munitions." 

Portugal, in equally sceptical mood, is sending three ministers to
Kosovo today to investigate for themselves the possible effects of
depleted uranium. "We want our own information based on our own
tests," said António Guterres, the Prime Minister, clearly mistrustful
of Nato reassurances. "It's the best guarantee of getting to the

The ministerial mission backs up a Portuguese scientific team sent to
Klina, near Kosovo, at the weekend to examine the ground with Geiger
counters for radiation. The initiative follows mounting public concern
over "Balkan syndrome", a form of leukaemia some experts fear is
caused by radioactive fall-out. 

Portugal began testing 10,000 soldiers yesterday who served in the
Balkans, acting on reports that five soldiers have suffered ill
effects and two have died. Spain also opened a Defence Ministry
hotline to handle concerns from Spanish soldiers, while still
insisting that cases of cancer detected in those stationed in the
Balkans were due to "natural causes" and were no higher than average. 

Three medical specialists began staffing Spain's telephone hotline in
a special Defence Ministry department set up to examine cases of
soldiers who think they may be affected, but the number was increased
to 12 amid the pressure of calls. Spain acknowledges three
cancer-related deaths among Balkan veterans. But the veterans'
pressure group, Soldiers' Defence Bureau, said that four had died,
four were ill and 12 cases needed further investigation. The Spanish
Red Cross said it was submitting its 58 members who had served in the
Balkans to health checks as a precaution. 

US jets fired 31,000 depleted uranium shells during the Kosovo
conflict, and another 10,000 rounds during peace-keeping work in
Bosnia. They are used for piercing armour, releasing upon impact a
dust of uranium oxide, which is highly toxic as well as radioactive. 

Six Italian soldiers have died from leukemia since returning from the
Balkans, sparking anational outcry against the use of depleted uranium
in tank-busting ammunition. Belgium and Greece have pressed for a
debate on depleted uranium at today's EU meeting, and the European
Commission is examining whether it has the power to act. But the US
and Britain are resisting demands for a formal inquiry, arguing that
there is no evidence of health problems connected with the use of
depleted uranium. 

Italy was the first Nato member to call for a full investigation of
the weapon. Germany has until now denied any direct link between
leukaemia and the depleted uranium shells. A German NCO diagnosed with
the disease had served in Mostar during the Bosnian conflict, but the
Berlin authorities insist that he could not have come into contact
with the shells there. 

But German trust in American words appears shaken. "We want a complete
examination of where these munitions have been used and with what
consequences," Mr Schröder said, after meeting Goran Persson, Sweden's
Prime Minister. "Of course we also want to know if there are
connections between cases of illness and the use of these weapons." 

An international team of experts has already visited some of the sites
in Kosovo, and has found higher than normal radiation levels. The full
results of their study will not be completed until March. 

Russia, which has 3,000 peace-keeping troops in Kosovo and 1,000 in
Bosnia, wants the UN involved. "The main thing is to have independent,
objective checks at the level of experts of the United Nations and
other specialist bodies - the International Atomic Energy Agency, the
World Health Organisation," said Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign

Nato's use of depleted uranium in Kosovo and Bosnia faces fresh
scrutiny today when the alliance and the EU hold separate talks on the
"Balkan syndrome". Sweden, which holds the presidency of the EU, said
it has put the issue on the agenda of today's political and security
committee, and Italy will raise the matter at the alliance's political

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