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Tuesday, January 09, 2001, updated at 16:32(GMT+8)

Croatia Demands Information From NATO on Possible DU Contamination in Adriatic Sea

Croatia will seek clarification from NATO on whether the Adriatic Sea has been contaminated by depleted uranium (DU) weapons dumped by the Alliance after air raids on Yugoslavia, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said on Monday.

"We will again ask (NATO) for precise information on this subject," Yugoslav state news agency quoted Racan as saying at a press conference in Zagreb.

NATO war planes dumped unexploded missiles into the Adriatic Sea, which touches the Croatian coast, before returning to their bases in Italy from their bombing missions during the Kosovo war in 1999.

So far it is not clear whether this weaponry contained depleted uranium and weather it contaminated sea water.

The Balkan syndrome aroused concerns among some NATO nations, including Italy, France and Portugal, where Kosovo veterans were reported to have contracted illness with symptoms related to depleted uranium contamination.

Seven Italian soldiers, five Belgians, two Dutch nationals, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech have died after tours in the Balkans. Four French soldiers and four Belgians have also contracted leukemia.

The Italian government, backed by the Belgians, French and Portuguese, has demanded an explanation.

NATO, the United States in particular, will be called on Tuesday to explain the health risks of DU weapons.

The Pentagon has rejected the idea that DU weapons pose a significant risk to health or the environment.

Depleted uranium is used in weapons to make bullets or missiles more dense so that they can penetrate armor. It gives off relatively low levels of radiation, but can be dangerous if ingested, inhaled in dust, or if it enters the body through cuts or wounds.

Yugoslav Servicemen not Found to Suffer Depleted Uranium-Related Diseases

There have been no reports that any of the 1,080 Yugoslav soldiers serving in areas contaminated by depleted uranium ammunition during the NATO Bombing in 1999 have suffered diseases relating to the contamination, a Yugoslav general said.

But this does not mean that their health condition will not deteriorate in the future, said Major General Momcilo, head of the Epidemics Prevention Bureau of the Yugoslav Army. He said these servicemen will continue to receive medical examinations.

Some European countries have shown great concern to the health of their peace-keeping soldiers in Kosovo, but they should also care about the health of local residents who actually suffer most from the contamination, he said.

Depleted Uranium has not only affected human bodies, but also contaminated food-chain, including water, land and plants, he noted, adding that Yugoslavia is ready to cooperate with international organizations on the issue of contamination.

Portugal Investigates Effects of DU Weapons in Balkans

The Portuguese government will send three ministers to Kosovo for a special 24-hour inspection amid concerns over depleted uranium weapons (DU) used by NATO in Yugoslavia, a government statement said Monday.

The decision was made after the three ministers discussed the issue with Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

The Portuguese defense and interior ministers, Castro Caldas and Severiano Teixeira, will meet with Portuguese police and military forces participating in a humanitarian mission in Kosovo.

Minister of Science and Technology Mariano Gago will meet with experts from the team of the Nuclear and Technological Institute (NTI), which is examining the effects of depleted uranium weapons in the region.

The statement said that samples gathered in Kosovo will be sent to Portugal for further examination.

According to news from the Portuguese Lusa news agency, Portuguese scientists arriving in Kosovo last Friday have not yet detected any serious problems.

Depleted uranium became a European concern after news that Italian, Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese soldiers died of cancer and leukemia after participating in Bosnia and Kosovo peace missions.

A local newspaper reported that a soldier died of Leukemia in 1998, since returning from that region, which brought the number of soldiers who had suffered strange illnesses to five. So far two have died. The newspaper said it might be linked to radioactivity of depleted uranium ammunition used during NATO's bombardment.

European governments have performed medical examinations on their military personnel and have requested NATO and the United States provide an explanation.

In This Section

Croatia will seek clarification from NATO on whether the Adriatic Sea has been contaminated by depleted uranium (DU) weapons dumped by the Alliance after air raids on Yugoslavia, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said on Monday.

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