Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 22:38:11 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Nato obstructs UN inquiry into depleted uranium
AFTER INSISTING that no scientific study had ever proved depleted uranium (DU) shells could cause cancer in Iraq or Kosovo, Nato has refused to co-operate with a United Nations team investigating the use of the munitions in the former Yugoslavia.
Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the UN's Balkan environment task
force, says Nato refused to co-operate with his team and that
immediate action is necessary to obtain information from Nato
confirming if, how and where, DU was used during the conflict.
There is, of course, no
if about it. Nato admitted in answer to
a question from The Independent in May that US A-10 aircraft had used
DU shells designed to penetrate thick armour against Serb targets, a
statement the US Department of Defence later repeated. A Nato
spokesman claimed inaccurately that a Rand Corporation study had
proved DU munitions caused no harm.
Hundreds of tons of DU were used in the 1991 Gulf War. In the years
that followed, there was an epidemic of cancers among Iraqis living
near the battlefields many of whom showed symptoms identical or
similar to thousands of Allied veterans now suffering from Gulf War
syndrome. Scientists fear similar contamination has taken place in
ex-Yugoslavia. Yet when last month Nato was asked for the locations
in Kosovo where DU was used, a spokesman said the information was
The UN, it now turns out, got the same runaround.
replied to our letters, an official in Mr Haavisto's office
told me yesterday.
But they never gave the answers we were
expecting. They were never able to release the information. They said
it was 'security'. Inquiries by The Independent have
established that Nato knows perfectly well, from munitions and
pilots' reports, target areas againstwhich DU weapons were
used. They include districts close to Djakovica, Mitrovica, Pristina,
Urahovac and in Serbia proper.
In private, Nato officers have been telling humanitarian officials in
Kosovo to stay away from any area where DU was used while still
refusing to state where they are. Mr Haavisto's report recommends
a thorough review of the effects on health of medium and long-term
exposure to DU by the World Health Organisation.
Yet two years ago the Iraqis asked the WHO for just such a report. It
was never produced. Now the UN says in its DU report that
and immediately after any attack where depleted uranium was used, some
people in the immediate vicinity may have been heavily exposed to
depleted uranium by inhalation. Special health examinations are
necessary, the UN says, adding that the possible contamination of land
need not prevent refugees from returning to their villages. But
hot-spot target areas must be identified as soon as possible
and arrangements made
for the secure storage of any contaminated
This, of course, cannot be done because Nato is keeping the information secret.